MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Vice President Joe Biden drew cheers from many of the 2,000 graduating students from MiamiDade College and their parents when he called for immigration reform at graduation ceremony on Saturday.

The graduates from two campuses and their families, 2,000 strong, cheered as a procession of 39 flags from their home countries, entered the gym and opened the program. Biden acknowledged that he was addressing many immigrants and the children and grandchildren of immigrants, many from South America and the Caribbean.

Biden said a “constant, substantial stream of immigrants” is important to the American economy, urging citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

“That’s why we have to act to bring 11 million people out of the shadows and put them on a path to citizenship,” Biden said. “These people are already Americans.”

When someone in the crowd shouted “Stop deportations!” he replied, “We’ll do that, too, kid, but let me finish my speech.”

Biden also applauded the Florida Legislature for passing a bill Friday to allow students living in the country illegally to pay in-state tuition at the public colleges and universities. Florida is the latest of 20 states to enact such a measure, and its passage marks a significant shift in the immigration debate in Florida away from a focus on immigration enforcement.

“More than half of you speak a language other than English at home, but you speak the language of America,” Biden said.

After the ceremony, Biden met privately with local Caribbean-American business leaders to discuss immigration issues and then joined Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., at his new campaign office.

Biden, whose wife is a longtime community college professor, praised the Miami Dade students for pursuing their education, quoting the late novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez in encouraging them to continue pursuing their personal and professional goals.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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