A federal magistrate judge in Texas has been permanently removed from overseeing naturalization ceremonies after he said new U.S. citizens could leave the United States if they don’t like President-elect Donald Trump. The judge subsequently said he plans to retire next year.
Five district court judges unanimously agreed Monday to remove Judge John Primomo from overseeing the ceremonies, said Orlando Garcia, chief judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. The district court judges are responsible for appointing and overseeing federal magistrate judges. Primomo’s removal was first reported by the San Antonio Express-News.
“Given the obvious inappropriate remarks made at a recent proceeding, the district judges thought it best that he not handle these proceedings any longer,” Garcia said in an interview.
On Tuesday, Primomo said in a letter to U.S. district court judges in Texas and to the 5th Circuit in New Orleans that he intends to retire next year, before his current term is complete, the Express-News reported.
During a naturalization ceremony last week, Primomo said anyone who didn’t like Trump needed to go to a different country.
“I can assure you that whether you voted for him or you did not vote for him, if you are a citizen of the United States, he is your president,” he said. “He will be your president and if you do not like that, you need to go to another country.” Primomo also criticized recent protests in which athletes have kneeled during the national anthem.
Garcia said he had never heard comments like these from Primomo, who was appointed to the position in 1988, or any other judge.
“It’s very uncharacteristic. Johnny Primomo actually is a good judge and good man. I don’t know what led him to do this. This has never happened before. Otherwise we certainly would have heard about it,” he said. Garcia added that when he heard about Primomo’s comments he was “quite upset and very puzzled by the whole affair.”
“We had a very frank discussion and he readily agreed that it was a poor choice of words and he readily accepted the fact that he would no longer be handling these proceedings and that was the end of that,” Garcia said.
The 5th circuit will also review a complaint filed by Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund against Primomo because of his remarks.
In 2014, the Express-News reported that Primomo had helped nearly 100,000 people become new citizens. The judge, who has said his comments were taken out of context and were meant to be unifying, did not immediately return a request for comment.
This post has been updated to note Primomo’s letter saying he intends to retire next year and that the 5th circuit will review a complaint filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.