President Obama drew one of his sharpest contrasts with Republicans at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address when he called for Congress to pass legislation giving illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship.

The president urged lawmakers to pass comprehensive immigration reform, or, absent that, a law like the DREAM Act that gives immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children a way to earn U.S. citizenship under certain conditions.

“I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration. That’s why my administration has put more boots on the border than ever before. That’s why there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office,” Obama said in his remarks on Capitol Hill.

“The opponents of action are out of excuses. We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now,” Obama added. “But if election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, and defend this country. Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away.”

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