Monday 5 December 2016

Obama praises Irish emigrant in TV address on citizenship

Published 08/06/2015 | 02:30

US President Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama
Ann Dermody at a high school in Virginia after she became a US citizen

A letter written by an Irish woman received special praise from US President Barack Obama in his weekly White House address to millions of Americans.

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The letter, penned by Ann Dermody, from Carlow, clearly touched a chord with the president on the emotionally charged issue of immigration.

Mr Obama contrasted the experiences of his own background - coming from a family of immigrants - with that of the Irish woman.

The president said she was a shining example of someone who had "worked hard, played by the rules" and had then realised her "dream" of becoming a US citizen.

Ann, who finally achieved citizenship in March of this year, wrote about her immense pride at reaching such an important milestone - and also explained how the journey was far from easy. She emigrated from Ireland seven years ago.

Mr Obama, who is trying to introduce major immigration reform before his term as president ends, said Ms Dermody was the type of person who would benefit from his proposed reforms. The reforms are being strongly opposed by sections of the Republican Party.

"We're a nation of immigrants, it's the source of our strength and something we can all take pride in," he said.

"And by sharing our stories, and staying true to our heritage as a nation of immigrants, we can keep that dream alive for generations to come."

Towards the end of his address, Mr Obama said: "I want us to remember people like Ann Dermody from Alexandria, Virginia. She's originally from Ireland and has lived in America legally for years. She worked hard, played by the rules, and dreamed of becoming a citizen.

"In March, her dream came true. And before taking the oath, she wrote me a letter.

"The papers we receive… will not change our different accents [or] skin tones, Ann said.

"But she said on the day she would be pronounced a US citizen, people like her will feel they 'have arrived'."

He rounded off by saying both she "and immigrants like her who have come to our shores seeking a better life" can certainly feel they "have arrived".

The president vowed to continue the fight to make the immigration system "more just and more fair".

He said he still faced staunch resistance from some quarters to modernising the process, which aims to bring more undocumented "out of the shadows, so they can get right with the law".

He said: "Some folks are still fighting against these actions. I'm going to keep fighting for them, because the law is on our side; it's the right thing to do, and it will make America stronger."

He was speaking during the annual Immigrant Heritage Month in the US, which is meant to honour the accomplishments and role of those from other countries who have shaped America's culture.

There are thousands of undocumented Irish living in the US. Some 41 million people - around 13pc of the total population of the US - are immigrants. Mr Obama used his address to call for Republicans to vote in favour of the legislation he is trying to pass.

It has been held up by political bickering for two years. Last year he called for fresh legislation to be adopted aimed at fixing America's "broken" immigration system.

In his speech on Saturday, he also referenced the number of illegal Irish immigrants in his hometown of Chicago "whose papers are not in order".

He said the White House was seeking to gather stories of how "you or your family made it to America - whether you're an immigrant yourself or your great-great-grandparents were".

Irish Independent

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