It's a heck of a week to be sworn in as a United States citizen. The United States has been debating its own values and character after it pulled out of the U.N. Human Rights Council and more information about family separations and makeshift detention centers at the southern border comes to light.
Yet amid the national chaos, 27 immigrants from sixteen countries gathered on Thursday, June 21, in a brightly lit basement at the Aurora Resiliency Center on Peoria Street to take their Oath of Allegiance to the United States and receive official citizenship certificates from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The ceremony was, to be sure, celebratory. For many, it marked the end of a long, hard road to American citizenship and the fulfillment of dreams that began in other countries, which in this case included Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, China, Korea, Romania, Somalia, the United Kingdom and Vietnam. Family members grinned and showed support for relatives being sworn in, and most everyone dressed up for the occasion.
But it would have been impossible to divorce the event from the emotions and national debate stirring around immigration.
Indeed, irony abounded at the ceremony.
For instance, under Donald Trump, refugee admission rates are at the lowest level in three decades. But a statement from Colorado Senator Cory Gardner read aloud by an aide from his office invoked Trump's MAGA: “America has always been a nation that has benefited from contributions by its immigrants. ... We can work together to make this country even greater.”
By contrast, a statement from Colorado's other senator, Michael Bennet, actually acknowledged the turmoil over immigration when he wrote, “Everyone here represents what it means to be an American. And we will rely on you to elevate our Democracy higher. ... It's even more important today than ever.”
Easily the most uncomfortable moment of the ceremony was a minute-and-a-half-long video of Trump addressing the new citizens, which was played on a large screen. Those in the room watched, mostly stone-faced.
Below is the full video, which includes such one-liners as:
“When you give your love and loyalty to America, she returns her love and loyalty to you.”
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“We share one American heart and one American destiny. It is a destiny filled with love, opportunity and hope.”
After the ceremony, Westword approached five newly minted citizens and asked for their thoughts about the Trump video. No one responded with appreciation for Trump's message, or even indifference. Rather, four said they thought it best not to express their opinions, even off the record. But one man, who asked not to be named, offered this sentiment:
“I mean, you saw the video. It was extremely hypocritical.”