For 29 people, Valentine’s Day 2020 will be one of the sweetest days ever.
Twenty-nine applicants from 17 countries became American citizens Feb. 14. Seven were from Mexico, four from Philippines, three from India and others came from countries such as Russia, United Kingdom, Canada and South Korea.
After retired federal magistrate Thomas Coffin swore in the new citizens, he recalled stories of immigrants doing amazing work in the U.S., like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified against President Donald Trump during the House impeachment inquiry.
During the ceremony, Coffin looked back at his own ancestry. He said his family arrived to the then-colonies 20 years after the Mayflower to escape religious persecution. And the first Coffin was a magistrate, too.
“I point that out not as a form of pride,” instead, he said, it’s a way to remind immigrants to not feel like people who were born in the U.S. are any better. He added that in fact, the U.S. is made up of immigrants.
“Diversity gives us strength,” he said.
Coffin added that he thinks American-born citizens take freedoms for granted, but immigrants know the importance of liberty because they’ve often fled countries that don’t have those rights.
“You don’t get complacent about freedom,” he said.
Coffin then told three stories about immigrants and their impact on U.S. society. One was about Jonas Salk, the son of an immigrant, who invented the polio vaccine and didn’t seek a patent. The second was Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, a Mexcian immigrant who worked as a farmworker, saved money for English classes and became a neurosurgeon.
The third story was about Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, “an American hero,” according to Coffin.
Born in Ukraine under Soviet Union rule, Vindman, his father, twin brother and grandmother fled to the U.S. out of fear of religious persecution due to their Jewish heritage.
Vindman testified against President Donald Trump during the recent House of Representatives impeachment inquiry. He told the House that he had listened to the call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Vindman reported that he heard the request for investigating political rivals in exchange for foreign aid. He raised objections about the demand out of a “sense of duty,” according to his testimony.
“Translated: a patriot who understood the oath of duty to country and principle for which the country stands,” Coffin said about Vindman.
Because of Vindman’s testimony, Trump retaliated by firing him from the National Security Council after the president was acquitted by the Senate.
Vindman has a loyalty to the U.S., to the Constitution, to the rule of law, Coffin said. And the Constitution isn’t meant to be partisan, he added.
“Without the Constitution, we aren’t the U.S.,” he said. “We are like any country run by a dictatorship.”