Federal judge John Primomo had some strong words in San Antonio for the immigrants he was swearing in to become U.S. citizens.
Judge Primomo was filmed at a citizenship ceremony saying that people “need” to leave the United States if they don’t like the fact the next president will be Donald Trump.
Primomo made the remark when he presided over the naturalization ceremony at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, Texas, on Thursday.
The room at the Institute was a melting pot, a collection of hopeful faces now bound together under one flag. During the ceremony, the federal judge presiding over the ceremony talked about Donald Trump’s election.
“I can assure you that whether 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,” the judge said. “And if you do not like that, you need to go to another country.”
The federal judge also told that he did not vote for the Republican and former reality show star.
The judge reportedly also went on to criticize professional football players who refuse to stand for the national anthem, saying, “I detest that, because you can protest things that happen in this country; you have every right to…You don’t do that by offending national symbols like the national anthem and the flag of the United States.”
Asked later about his comments in San Antonio, U.S. District Judge John Primomo said he meant the words to be unifying and respectful of the office of president, not political.
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 U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that the 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 then-President Ronald Reagan.
Still, his words set off a controversy in pro-Hillary mainstream media, with people calling for him to be removed from office. Critics started a petition to censure the judge, who was appointed in 1988.
Primomo himself 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. Many of those new Americans wait in line to get 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 told the newspaper. “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.”
Primomo’s remarks make more sense in context. Last week, President Obama actually supported anti-Trump riots and urged protesters not to be silent.