When new citizens take the oath of allegiance, it is the final step in a long, cumbersome process of achieving what many consider to be a dream come true – U.S. citizenship.
It is a time of celebration, one new citizens should be able to revel in and feel good about. It is a time we want them to be proud of.
Last week, a federal magistrate sent an odd message to a group of new citizens at the Institute of Texan Cultures. Rather than simply welcoming them and applauding them for completing the arduous process of becoming a citizen, he went into a political speech about allegiances and responsibilities when it comes to supporting the president.
“I can assure you that wheth- er you voted for [Trump] or you did not vote for him, if you are a citizen of the United States, he is your president and he will be your president,” judge John Primomo said. “And if you do not like that, you need to go to an- other country.”
There has been a lot of dis- cussion of whose president Donald Trump will be. It is true, he will be the president for all Americans – no different than Obama before him, Bush before him and Clinton before him. The phrase “not my president” isn’t new, in fact Republicans have spent a number of years saying it. I didn’t endorse the phrase then, and I don’t endorse it now. The person sitting in the oval office is our president, period; whether we voted for that person or not.
But Primomo makes a mock- ery of what this country is all about, his poor choice amplified because he is a judge, when he suggests people should leave if they don’t like it.
At no time in our history has it been a requirement to like the president. And it has never been an expectation that someone should go to another country if they didn’t like the president. But these are the times we find ourselves in.
I’m embarrassed by the example we have set for people seeking to become one of us.
New citizens do a lot more to earn their citizenship than the rest of us. A lengthy application process, interviews, background checks, citizenship test – which I doubt many natural born cit- izens could pass – and lots of waiting is what new citizens endure to become an American.
Me, and most of you, we were simply born here. Not much of an accomplishment really for feeling so entitled. What do we
do to “earn” our citizenship? Natural born Americans tend to look at citizenship as a right for themselves and a privilege for those who apply from other countries. While that may be technically true, it comes with an arrogance that demonstrates a misguided sense of superiority based solely on where someone is born.
People seeking citizenship are pointed to the “10 Steps to Naturalization”, a handy guide published by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Ironically, page 14 spells out the responsibilities we as Americans believe newcomers accept in exchange for the right to be one of us.
All of the rights and responsibilities
spelled out emphasize civic duty and the right to dis- agree and be different than the next person. New citizens are implored to respect others and their rights, to participate in government and be informed.
It would be a good idea if page 14 of “10 Steps to Naturalization” was a must read for everyone from high school students to federal judges who are lucky enough to preside over one of the most special moments in a new American citi- zen’s life. Because from what I can see, many Americans have forgotten all about the rights of other Americans and the responsibilities that come with that birthright they like to wear on their sleeve.