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Impeachment testimony highlights witnesses' immigrant pasts

Fiona Hill testifies yesterday in the House Ways and Means Committee hearing room. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Fiona Hill testifies yesterday in the House Ways and Means Committee hearing room. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Several witnesses who testified in the House impeachment inquiry this week highlighted their immigrant backgrounds, sharing their families' stories in highly personal opening statements, the AP's Jill Colvin and Colleen Long write.

Why it matters: They drew a connection to how those experiences led them to public service and a strong desire to safeguard U.S. national security. Their stories offered a sharp counterpoint to President Trump, who has often derided immigrants as a threat to American national security.

Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council official who testified yesterday, spoke in what she called a "very distinctive working-class" British accent that would have impeded her professional advancement at home:

  • "I can say with confidence that this country has offered for me opportunities I never would have had in England."

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer who works with the NSC, testified Tuesday that his family fled to the U.S. from the Soviet Union when he was 3.

  • "Dad, I am sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol, talking to our elected professionals. Talking to our elected professionals is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago. ... Do not worry. I will be fine."

Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, immigrated to the U.S. at age 3 from Canada. Her father fled the Soviets, and her mother had grown up in Nazi Germany.

  • "Their personal histories, my personal history gave me both deep gratitude towards the United States and great empathy for others like the Ukrainian people who want to be free," she told lawmakers last week.

Gordon Sondland, the president's ambassador to the European Union, described at one point how his parents had fled Europe during the Holocaust, first moving to Uruguay and then settling in Seattle:

  • "Like so many immigrants, my family was eager for freedom and hungry for opportunity."

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