New citizens told: Like it or not, Trump’s president
Judge says remarks that also decried protests were intended to unify
Hundreds of immigrants filed into the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio last week to end a years-long wait to become U.S. citizens. But before their naturalization ceremony was over, they had to listen to a lecture from a federal judge about President-elect Donald Trump.
“I can assure you that whether you voted for him or you did not vote for him, if you are a citizen of the United States, he is your president,” Judge John Primomo said during a naturalization ceremony Thursday. “He will be your president and if you do not like that, you need to go to another country.”
Primomo condemned anti-Trump demonstrators and football players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality, according to KENS-TV.
“I detest that, because you can protest things that happen in this country; you have every right to,” Primomo said, according to the station. “You don’t do that by offending national symbols like the national anthem and the flag of the United States.”
Protests have flared nationwide repudiating Trump’s victory in the presidential election. At one rally at American University in Washington, D.C., students burned U.S. flags and shouted “[Expletive] white America!” The Washington Post reported.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that desecration of the American flag is “symbolic speech” protected under the First Amendment. The decision originated from a case in Dallas, where a man burned a U.S. flag outside the 1984 Republican National Convention to protest President Ronald Reagan.
Primomo’s message to the new citizens has spurred headlines from The Huffington Post to Breitbart, but he told KENS that he meant his words to be unifying, not political, and that he didn’t vote for Trump.
Primomo is the son of immigrants from Italy and Germany, according to a profile of the judge published two years ago in the San Antonio Express-News.
The U.S. magistrate judge has administered the citizenship oath to more than 93,000 immigrants since 1989, the newspaper reported. Many of those new Americans wait in line to have their photo taken with Primomo after they take the oath.
He told the Express-News in 2014 that there’s no extra pay involved in presiding over the ceremonies.
“I know it never gets old,” Primomo said. “I mean, every time I pronounce that ‘You’re a citizen of the United States’ — which, that’s not really a requirement, it’s just kind of a little emphasis I like to add to it — I get a chill every single time.”