A federal judge presiding over a naturalization ceremony in San Antonio, Texas, on Friday told new U.S. citizens if they didn’t like President-elect Donald Trump, they could leave the United States.
“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, according to KENS 5. “He will be your president and if you do not like that, you need to go to another country.”
From the start of his presidential campaign, Trump made attacking immigrants a central component of his candidacy. He called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals and pledged to ban all Muslim immigrants from entering the U.S. On Friday, he announced he would nominate Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a staunch anti-immigration hardliner, as his attorney general.
Primomo told KENS 5 that his comments were intended to be unifying and that he meant them to be respectful to the office of the president. He also criticized demonstrators who have been protesting Trump since he was elected on Nov. 8. Since the election, there has also been an uptick in attacks on minority groups in the United States, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The most hopeful comments at the San Antonio ceremony came from the immigrants who were becoming citizens for the first time.
“The essence of Americans is that you have the right to vote and choose [who] to represent you,” Rafael Guerra, a new U.S. citizen who was born in Mexico, told the station.