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Americans Celebrate 238th Anniversary of Nation's Independence

  • Alex Villarreal

President Barack Obama (L) watches as Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas administers the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians, July 4, 2014, at the White House in Washington.

President Barack Obama (L) watches as Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas administers the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians, July 4, 2014, at the White House in Washington.

Americans across the United States are celebrating the 238th anniversary of their country's independence from Britain with fireworks, parades, and picnics.

Large Fourth of July fireworks displays and concerts are taking place in Washington on the National Mall and in New York City over the East River.

Festivities in Washington also include re-enactors portraying founding fathers such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.

A firework show in Boston was held a day early so as not to be rained out by Hurricane Arthur which is making its way up the East Coast.

Presidential push

At the White House on Friday, President Barack Obama pressed again for immigration reform, as he welcomed 25 new U.S. citizens in a special Independence Day naturalization ceremony.

Obama said the new citizens -- all U.S. service members or military spouses -- are a reminder that America "is and always has been a nation of immigrants."

Calling the current immigration system "broken," he pledged to do everything he can to make the system smarter and more efficient.

"We shouldn't be making it harder for the best and brightest to come here and create jobs here and grow our economy here. We should be making it easier," said Obama.

The immigration issue is back in the spotlight amid an influx of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America who have crossed into the United States illegally.

The service members and spouses naturalized at the White House Friday joined President Obama for a barbecue and viewing of the annual Fourth of July fireworks on the National Mall. President Obama praised those in the armed forces for signing up to fight for a country they did not fully belong to yet.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recognized the holiday by calling U.S. service members in Afghanistan to wish them a happy Independence Day. The Pentagon said Hagel thanked them for what they do to defend the U.S. people and their "tireless" efforts to support Afghan citizens during the current transition period.

Most NATO-led forces are preparing to leave Afghanistan by the end of the year.

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