White House (CNN) - In a Fourth of July ceremony at the White House, brimming with political undertones, President Obama hosted a naturalization ceremony for more than two dozen active duty service members.
"[T]his is one of my favorite things to do. It brings me great joy and inspiration because it reminds us that we are a country that is bound together not simply by ethnicity or bloodlines, but by fidelity to a set of ideas," Mr. Obama told the audience of new Americans and their families.
The White House has hosted similar naturalization ceremonies in previous years but never on Independence Day. And while the newly minted citizens came from countries around the world including Russia, the Philippines and Cameroon, about half were Latinos, a key voting block in the upcoming election.
Just last month the Obama administration announced it would stop deporting young illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children if they meet certain criteria. The legislation referred to as the DREAM Act is now stalled in Congress.
At Wednesday's White House ceremony, the president touched on the volatile issue of immigration reform saying, "For just as we remain a nation of laws, we have to remain a nation of immigrants. And that's why, as another step forward, we're lifting the shadow of deportation from serving - from deserving young people who were brought to this country as children. It's why we still need a DREAM Act - to keep talented young people who want to contribute to our society and serve our country. It's why we need - why America's success demands - comprehensive immigration reform."
Latino voters are considered a key voting block and essential to winning the 2012 presidential race. In 2008 Obama won 67% of the Hispanic vote. But a survey released this week shows that more than half of the Hispanic voters questioned say they are independent and do not identify themselves with either party. The USA Today/Gallup poll showed 51% of Hispanics called themselves independents compared to 32% who identified themselves ad Democrats and 11% who said they were Republicans.