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Saturday, June 13, 1998 Published at 21:38 GMT 22:38 UK

World: Americas

Immigrants good for America, says Clinton

Bill Clinton urged immigrants to become citizens

President Clinton has called on Americans to set aside any fears they may have of foreigners and accept the current wave of immigration to the United States as a source of strength.

Speaking a year after he launched a national initiative to improve race relations, Mr Clinton said that unless Americans were willing to share their country, immigration could threaten the bonds which held the nation together.

Clinton: "They have strengthened our economy, enriched our culture"
President Clinton said he believed unequivocally that immigrants were good for America. But he appealed to immigrants to learn the majority language and to become Americans.

Mr Clinton was speaking at a graduation ceremony at Portland State University in the north-western state of Oregon, a region of high immigration.

'Become American'

"Let me state unequivocally: I believe new immigrants are good for America," the president said.

"They are revitalising our cities ... They are renewing our values, and they are reminding all of us what it truly means to be an American," Mr Clinton said.

But he urged immigrants to "honour our laws, embrace our culture, learn our language, know our history - become citizens, become American."

The president expressed regret that too many immigrant children had failed to learn English and had dropped out of education.

Plea for tolerance

Citing Bosnia and other countries devastated by ethnic conflict in recent years, Mr Clinton made a plea for tolerance: "Around the world, we have seen what can happen when people who live on the same land put race and ethnicity before country and humanity," he said.

Later in the day, President Clinton visited Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, where last months two pupils were shot dead and 22 others injured in an attack by a teenage school pupil.

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