Barack Obama praises ‘invisible’ workers in dig at Republicans during official portrait unveiling

Barack Obama has praised the importance of “invisible” workers who underpin America in an apparent dig at the Republican immigration stance during his official portrait unveiling. 

The former US president said that the cleaners, food servers and garbage collectors who are so important to the country’s success are too often overlooked. 

He said such people “belong at the centre of American life” and warned against “simply celebrating the high and the mighty”. 

It comes as the Senate debates whether to grant citizenship to millions of migrants brought to America illegally while children, many of whom now work in the country.

Mr Obama gave these so-called ‘dreamer’ migrants a path to citizenship while in office, however Mr Trump ripped up his presidential protections and instead handed the issue to Congress. 

Mr Obama was giving a rare public speech at the unveiling of the official portraits of himself and his wife Michelle at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. 

His portrait, featuring Mr Obama sitting in a chair before a colourful background of leaves, was painted by Kehinde Wiley while Mrs Obama’s was done by Amy Sherald. 

Former President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama hold hands prior to portraits unveiling at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington Credit: Reuters

Discussing what impressed him about Mr Wiley’s past portraits, Mr Obama mentioned the way they “challenged our conventional views of power and privilege”. 

Mr Obama said the artist focused on “the beauty and the grace and the dignity of people who are so often invisible in our lives and put them on a grand stage, on a grand scale and force us to look and see them in ways that so often they were not”. 

He added: “People in our families, people who helped to build this country, people who helped to build this capitol, people who to this day are making sure that this place is clean at night and serving food and taking out…

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