Newspaper article International New York Times

Immigration Activist Becomes Citizen, but Her Fight Isn't Over

Newspaper article International New York Times

Immigration Activist Becomes Citizen, but Her Fight Isn't Over

Article excerpt

"We're old friends,' President Obama said, before Lorella Praeli, who had pressed Mr. Obama to take action on immigration, took the oath in Washington.

Lorella Praeli has not always been happy with President Obama.

For years, Ms. Praeli, an undocumented immigrant from Peru, needled the president, publicly and privately, as she became one of the country's most visible and persistent young activists pressing for Mr. Obama to take executive action on immigration.

But on Tuesday, Mr. Obama looked on proudly as Ms. Praeli raised her right hand and became one of the nation's newest citizens in a ceremony at the National Archives, home to the country's founding documents. In remarks after the event, Mr. Obama congratulated Ms. Praeli and 30 other newly naturalized citizens, saying: "We are born of immigrants. That's who we are."

Greeting Ms. Praeli and the others privately before the ceremony, Mr. Obama kissed her on the cheek. "We're old friends," he told the surprised group.

Once a critic who verbally confronted the president for his inaction during more than one meeting at the White House, Ms. Praeli became a fierce supporter of Mr. Obama last year after the president finally assented to the wishes of activists, issuing an order to protect as many as five million undocumented immigrants from deportation, including her mother.

Ms. Praeli, 27, who is now working for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, was in the front row in late 2014 when Mr. Obama announced his executive actions, which have been held up by a legal challenge that is most likely headed to the Supreme Court. She earned the chance to naturalize when she married her boyfriend, a citizen.

"My biggest dream is for all of them to get to feel the way I feel today, with pride and joy and gratitude for our country," Ms. Praeli said in an interview, referring to the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. …

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