5:46 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! (Applause.) Bienvenidos a la Casa Blanca! (Applause.) This is a rowdy crowd, I can tell. (Laughter.) They’re ready to party. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Love the margaritas.
THE PRESIDENT: The margaritas I hear are quite good. (Applause.) Be careful, though, they’ll sneak up on you. (Laughter.)
Well, thank you for joining our Cinco de Mayo celebration. It is wonderful to have so many Latinos and Latinas — (applause) — and people who wish they were Latino or Latina. (Laughter.) A lot of honorary Latinos and Latinas. On Cinco de Mayo, todos somos Latinos! (Applause and laughter.)
I’m just going to say a few words, and then we get back to the fiesta. No Cinco de Mayo would be complete without great food and great music. So I want to thank our guest chefs, my good friend, José Andrés — (applause) — Pati Jinich is here as well. (Applause.) Our musicians — members of the Georgetown University Orchestra and our mariachis, Los Gallos Negros. (Applause.)
I’m honored to welcome our friends from other parts of the Americas. We’ve got Mexico’s Undersecretary of North America, Sergio Alcocer, is here. The Ambassador to the United States, Eduardo Medina-Mora, is here as well. Give them a big round of applause. (Applause.) Peru’s Ambassador to the U.S., Harold Forsyth, is here. (Applause.) I also want to welcome all the members of Congress who are here today, including members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus — and its outstanding Chairman, Rubén Hinojosa, is here. (Applause.) And as always, it’s great to see Hispanic Americans from across my administration, whose contributions every single day make me proud.
Cinco de Mayo marks a great moment in Mexican history — one that ended up shaping the United States as well. One hundred and fifty-two years ago, a band of Mexican patriots in the town of Puebla faced an invasion by Napoleon III’s troops. The French side was bigger, it was better trained and better armed. But the Mexicans grabbed whatever weapons they could and fought with all their might, and they won the battle. (Applause.) A few years later — thanks to the bravery and tenacity of the Mexican people, with support of the United States — the occupation came to an end.
And had the opposite happened, our nations would look very different today. Our friendship with Mexico has had an enormous influence on our history and our culture and our economy. Today, our governments work together on everything from stopping crime to promoting trade to protecting our environment. And millions of Americans are connected to Mexico through ties of friendship and language and family — and they make vital contributions to our nation every single day. So today, we remember with gratitude those brave fighters who triumphed in Puebla all those years ago, and the generations of Mexicans and Americans who’ve sustained and strengthened us ever since. (Applause.)
Of course, we can honor our past by building an even brighter future together. And that means restoring our nation’s promise of opportunity for all so that everybody has a fair shot at the American Dream — which is why I fought so hard for the Affordable Care Act — (applause) — because every American deserves quality, affordable health care. Thanks to the ACA, millions of Latinos now have access to expanded preventive care, and hundreds of thousands of Latinos have recently enrolled in health care plans, and hundreds of thousands of young Latinos are able to stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26. (Applause.)
It’s the same reason I’m fighting to make sure every child has access to a world-class education, from pre-K through college. (Applause.) And thanks in part to our investments, our high school graduation rate is the highest on record, and the Latino dropout rate has been cut in half since 2000. That’s worth applauding. (Applause.)
Education helps us find new frontiers for collaboration between the United States and Mexico, and throughout the hemisphere. That’s why I launched the “100,000 Strong in the Americas” initiative to significantly increase educational exchanges among our countries. And I just came from a discussion with leaders in business and education who see these exchanges as key to maintaining their competitive advantage. They understand that if we’re serious about building a 21st century workforce then we’re going to have to build knowledge and relationships that reach across borders. And that’s how we’re going to create new jobs and develop new markets, explore new ideas and unleash the hemisphere’s extraordinary opportunity.
And opportunity for all is why I’m fighting so hard to fix a broken immigration system. (Applause.) I am convinced that America’s prosperity and security depend on comprehensive, common-sense immigration reform. Last year, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together to pass a common-sense bill that would grow our economy and shrink our deficits, reward businesses and workers that played by the rules — all while upholding our most cherished values as a nation of immigrants.
So far, the Republicans in the House have refused to allow meaningful immigration reform to move forward at all. We know there are Republicans in the House who want to do the right thing. I’m going to work with everybody who’s serious about strengthening our borders, modernizing our legal immigration system, keeping more families together, and getting this done. And it’s the right thing to do for our economy, for our security and our future.
The majority of Americans agree with me on this. It’s time for members of Congress, and Republicans in the House to catch up with the rest of the country. So I need all of you to go out there and mobilize particularly over the next two months — tell them to get on board. Get on board with business leaders and faith leaders, law enforcement, Republicans and Democrats across the country — say yes to fixing our broken immigration system. Let’s get it done right now once and for all. (Applause.)
So, today, on Cinco de Mayo, we celebrate our shared heritage, our shared history, our shared future. That’s not something to be afraid of — that’s something that we need to embrace. That’s what I’m going to be doing, not just today, but every day, to keep fighting for opportunity for all people and greater understanding between all nations. And I know that’s what you’re fighting for as well.
So, gracias. Que Dios los bendiga, y feliz Cinco de Mayo. Thank you, everybody. (Applause.)
5:54 P.M. EDT