With a slip of the tongue in his July 3 news conference, White House press secretary Josh Earnest stumbled, saying President Barack Obama plans to use the Fourth of July to naturalize "illegal" immigrants.
The faux pas came as Earnest was fielding tough questions on immigration policy from the White House press corps and, according to The Washington Times,
he told reporters that Obama wants "to naturalize those individuals who are in this country illegally … uhhh, legally … who signed up to join the military to defend this country."
Earnest was referring to Obama’s planned Rose Garden ceremony,
in which several previously undocumented military veterans will become naturalized citizens.
Obama remarked, "That’s how much they love this country. They were prepared to fight and die for an America they did not yet fully belong to. I think they’ve earned their stripes."
Earnest recovered quickly, and added, "That is a pretty strong testament to the values that are held by those immigrants. I can tell you that the president is looking forward to it."
He added, "To have people who are taking the extraordinary step of signing up and dedicating their life to defend a country of which they are not yet a citizen is remarkable."
Earnest faced tough questions from the press corps regarding Obama’s intentions in dealing with the more than 50,000 Guatemalan, El Salvadoran, and Honduran children who have fled violence in their home countries and flooded the U.S. border from Mexico since October, many of whom now languish in internment camps awaiting deportation or other action.
Immigration has become a hotly contested issue between Obama and House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, with Obama saying he will take executive action to move forward on immigration reform.
"If Congress will not do its job, at least we can do ours," Obama said, according to The Hill.
reports that Texas’ Republican Gov. Rick Perry has urged that the children be deported and that troops be sent in to block the border.
"The power of boots on the ground cannot be overstated," Perry said. "The message needs to be not, 'If you come into the United States, you'll be deported,' but, 'You won't enter the United States.'"
However, Earnest, while referring to "problems posed by our broken immigration system," said only that Obama intends to "leverage" security arrangements
between the United States and Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala to "try to address this tide at its source."
Boehner charged, according to The Hill: "The president’s own executive orders have led directly to the humanitarian crisis along the southern border, giving false hope to children and their families that if they enter the country illegally, they will be allowed to stay."
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