Remarks of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Recognizing Vermont’s Commitment to Refugees

On February 1st, Vermont welcomed 31 new U.S. citizens from 14 countries through a naturalization ceremony in Rutland.  Later that night, more than one thousand people from our small state of Vermont gathered on our statehouse lawn in support of refugees and immigrants.

Vermonters understand what “community” means.  It is a helping hand in a time of need.  It is a kind word in a moment of distress.  It is a welcoming embrace to calm a fear.  We may be small, but in Vermont, there is no limit to our compassion. 

As with each of our 50 great American states, immigration is a rich part of Vermont’s past. For decades, we have opened our communities to immigrants and refugees.  They have all become part of the fabric of our state, enriching us all with their diverse cultures. 

Since President Trump signed his disgraceful executive order that stymied our refugee resettlement program and sent a shameful message to Muslims that they are not welcome in our country, I have heard from hundreds of Vermonters.  Compassionate Vermonters pleading that we continue our Refugee Resettlement Program and welcome refugees of all religions.  Concerned Vermonters, anxious about the threats to our constitutionally protected freedoms and rights.  Nervous Vermonters wondering what next steps this administration will take in the name of security, but are really just rooted in politically-charged scare tactics. 

Vermonters have already proven that we will not back down.  Marching in Montpelier and in Washington on January 21st, Vermonters’ voices were heard.  In candlelit vigils across the state, their empathy has been seen.  And at the naturalization ceremony on February 1st, Vermont’s welcoming spirit could be felt.

Federal District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford gave stirring remarks at that naturalization ceremony.  And the impact of those remarks are summarized by this one line, which he directed particularly to our new Muslim citizens: “You are equal in the eyes of the law.”  Judge Crawford’s message was simple: You are welcome, you are equal, you are protected.

My fellow Vermonters inspire me every day.  We should all take note from their example of what it means to be patriotic Americans.

I ask unanimous consent that Judge Crawford’s remarks from the February 1, 2017, naturalization ceremony in Rutland, Vermont, be included in the Record.

Remarks of Judge Geoffrey Crawford at 2/1/17 U.S. Naturalization Ceremony, Rutland, VT

Welcome – all of you – to your naturalization ceremony. You will all leave here as American citizens. We are very happy to include you among us. Let me take a moment to talk about a few things.

First, although our theme today is one of welcome and new beginnings, we should all start by considering both the difficulties of the journeys you have made and the richness of the backgrounds which you bring. First the journey. The Latin poet Catullus said it best:

            Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus

In English,

            Carried through many nations and over many seas

Your journeys have not been easy. Some of you have left family – all of you have left friends and the comfort of familiar surroundings for this new place. Some of you are refugees from lands which are broken by war. Today we honor the commitment of our nation to welcoming and caring for refugees. Some of you experienced hunger, illness and hardship. All of you come in search of a better life. But it would not be right to forget the value of the lives and communities from which you come.

As we welcome you, we honor your heritage – your parents, your culture, and the lands of your birth. You bring variety and energy and new ideas to us. You know a lot that we do not know. You have had experiences that we want to hear about. We are lucky that you have chosen to make your lives here. We need each of you because of what you will contribute to us – your work, your ideas, your sense of humor, your food, your children.

Let me speak directly about our new citizens who are Muslims. What I have to say is simple: you are equal in the eyes of the law. You are just as welcome here as citizens as anyone else. Your faith and your right to worship are honored and protected by our laws. We recognize that the Muslim faith is ancient and learned and that it has contributed greatly over more than a thousand years to our shared civilization. Muslim citizens and residents have served America for more than two centuries in military service, in scientific research, in literature and the arts, in the professions, in commerce, in labor – in all the ways that we all contribute to the daily life of our nation. As Muslims, you have the same right as any other citizen. These include protection from discrimination on the basis of your relations and your national origin and protection of your right to worship freely. These protections are not empty promises. They form part of our constitutional law. These protections are enforced every day by our courts. But let me turn towards a happier subject. This is a day of celebration. Today we welcome you as our brothers and sisters, common citizens of the county we all love and which you have chosen as your own.

What can you expect in the years ahead as American citizens? Two things stand out: opportunity and individual freedom. These are the values which have brought people like your family and mine to America for more than two centuries. Let’s talk about both.

Opportunity means the chance to work, to go to school, to find a way to support yourself which has meaning for you, to have money for your family, to rent or buy a home, to educate your children and some day to retire with dignity. Because our economy is strong, there is room for you to find a place which suits you. It is never easy, and there are many disappointments along the way, but it is possible 

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