Politics

Some find irony, comfort in Trump's citizenship message welcoming immigrants to America

This file photo shows a man at a citizenship ceremony.
This file photo shows a man at a citizenship ceremony.
John Moore/Getty Images

President Donald Trump has issued a videotaped message that was shown to thousands of new U.S. citizens Wednesday in which he welcomes the immigrants to the "American family" and urges them to help other newcomers assimilate.

Some of the 4,000 people at a ceremony in Los Angeles embraced the message of unity, while others said the words felt insincere coming from the man who has ordered a travel ban and cast Mexican immigrants in a negative light.

Moises Rodriguez, a 28-year-old disc jockey from Mexico, said he agrees with the message and supports Trump's tough stance on illegal immigration.

However, 21-year-old college student Kevin Alvarado, who is from Nicaragua, said the remarks don't mesh with Trump's previous comments on immigration.

Such messages are a key part of naturalization ceremonies. Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush also produced video messages for use during the events.

The tone and message of Trump's talk were highly anticipated given his aggressive stance on immigration that has included travel bans from Muslim-majority countries, ending a program shielding nearly 800,000 young immigrants from deportation, and comments referring to Mexican immigrants as rapists.

In the message, Trump welcomes citizens and tells them they should teach American values to others and "help newcomers assimilate to our way of life."

"Our history is now your history. And our traditions are now your traditions," he said.
The speeches by Bush and Obama also mentioned the values of American citizenship. But Trump's remarks struck a different tone.

"His message seems to be much more, 'You need to fold yourself into the American fabric of American citizenship,'" said Jason Edwards, a professor of communication at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. "There is not a message about the journey of immigrants."

Rodriguez thought the video was great.

"The fact that it was very important that we educate the people that are coming here to assimilate to what is the American dream — I thought that was very important," he said.

Other new citizens said it sounded scripted.

"You look at the track of others things he's said and you don't feel like he's a genuine person to want to welcome new citizens," Alvarado said.

Trump's video comes as more immigrants are applying to become American citizens.

More than a million people filed applications for citizenship in the year ending in March, up 23 percent from a year earlier, according to statistics from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Legal service organizations that assist immigrants with the process say they saw a surge in interest after the president issued executive orders on immigration.

Immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens generally must have been legal permanent residents of the United States for at least three years, show good moral character and pass English and civics tests that cover topics such as the founding fathers, Constitution and presidency.

Sarah Thompson, a 42-year-old software product manager from Canada, said she filed her application to naturalize the day after Trump's election. She said his aggressive stance on immigration made her want to shore up her standing in this country — and it didn't seem to match the videotaped remarks played at the Los Angeles ceremony.

"It didn't seem sincere to me given how he has conducted himself during his presidency so far," Thompson said after becoming a U.S. citizen.