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Obama on Immigration: Can't Have 'Amnesia' About How We Got Here

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Speaking before the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., President Obama said Thursday that while it may be tempting to think of immigrants as different, Americans ought not have “amnesia” about how they got here.

“It can be tempting to think that those coming to America today are somehow different from us. And we need to not get -- have amnesia about how we populated this country,” President Obama said quoting a verse in the Book of Deuteronomy about loving the stranger. “What this verse reminds us to do is to look at that migrant farmer and see our own grandfather disembarking at Ellis Island or Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, and to look at that young mother newly arrived in this country and see our own grandmother leaving Italy or Ireland or Eastern Europe in search of something better.”

The occasion to speak at the annual breakfast gave President Obama the opportunity to again address comprehensive immigration reform, just three days after delivering a major speech, political in nature, in El Paso, Texas, meant to create momentum for reform.

“I know there are some folks who wish I could just bypass Congress,” Obama said to laughter, noting that some in the room have been frustrated with his pace of change on this issue, not meeting his original goal to pass comprehensive reform his first year in office. “I can't. Well, what I can do is sign a law. What you can do is champion a law. What we can do together is make comprehensive immigration reform the law of the land. That's what we can do. “

The president is in the middle of a big push for reform, following five meetings with supporters this month, meant to create an army so-to-speak to mobilize and put pressure on Congress.

He said that comprehensive reform is not only an “economic imperative or a security imperative, it's also a moral imperative.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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