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Biden defends remarks that undocumented immigrants are ‘already Americans’


Vice President Biden talks about immigration reform May 5. (Reuters)

Vice President Biden defended remarks he made in March saying that 11 million undocumented immigrants are "already American," telling a breakfast that he believes immigration reform would be a boon for the country.

"And I know I was criticized for saying a couple of months ago in Florida that these 11 million folks in the shadows are already Americans and I got pretty roundly criticized for that. But they are Americans," Biden said Monday. "They may not be citizens, but they are Americans. In the definition of Teddy Roosevelt, he said Americanism is not a question of birthplace or creed or line of descent, it's a question of principles, idealism and character. And I would argue that those 11 million folks who have been here breaking their neck, working hard, they are Americans."

The remarks came two days after Biden, speaking at Miami Dade College, was interrupted by a woman who yelled, "stop deportations." Biden was speaking about the importance of immigrants to the United States.

"We'll do that, kid, but let me finish my speech," Biden said in response.

Biden spoke Monday at a breakfast celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Biden repeated the call for the House of Representatives to take up a stalled immigration bill, saying that "we have to redouble our demand" for congressional action. He called specifically on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to move on the legislation.

"And it's time for John — he's a good man, John Boehner — to stand up and other Republicans to stand up," Biden said. "It's time for him to stand up, stand up and not let the minority — I think it's a minority — of the Republican Party in the House keep us from moving in a way that will change the circumstances for millions and millions of lives."

In recent weeks, President Obama has slammed House Republicans for not acting on the immigration bill, saying they preferred the "status quo of a broken immigration system" over reform.

But according to the Wall Street Journal, Boehner told a Las Vegas fundraiser that he's "hellbent" on passing immigration reform this year.

Biden said Monday that immigration reform would be a "shot in the arm" for the country.

"To continue the dreams of all the American people, we have got to get 11 million people out of the shadows," Biden said. "It's not just to benefit those 11 million people, it's badly needed for the country. The country needs a shot in the arm and this would give it a considerable shot in the arm."

Katie Zezima is a national political correspondent covering the 2016 presidential election. She previously served as a White House correspondent for The Post.

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