WASHINGTON: One came from northeast England. Another came from the former Soviet Union. A third was born in Canada to parents who’d fled the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

Several witnesses who testified in the House impeachment inquiry this week chose to highlight their immigrant backgrounds, sharing their families’ stories in highly personal opening statements. They drew a connection to how those experiences led them to public service and a strong desire to safeguard US national security. Their stories offered a sharp counterpoint to President Donald Trump, who has often derided immigrants as a threat to American national security.

“I can say with confidence that this country has offered for me opportunities I never would have had in England,” former National Security Council official Fiona Hill testified Thursday. She spoke in what she called a “very distinctive working-class” British accent that would have impeded her professional advancement at home, but that “never set me back in America”.

On Tuesday, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer who works with the National Security Council, testified that his family fled to the US from the Soviet Union when he was 3. He said in his opening statement that he and his brothers felt compelled to serve in the military to repay the country that had offered them refuge from authoritarian oppression.

“In Russia, my act of expressing concern to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions, and offering public testimony involving the president would surely cost me my life,” he told the committee. He expressed gratitude for his “father’s brave act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being an American citizen”.

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