By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,529)
Seventy-five immigrants and their families walked into Ocean Gateway on the Portland waterfront yesterday afternoon – about an hour later they walked back out into a beautiful late summer day – with the rights and responsibilities afforded to all United States citizens. All 75 immigrants had been administered the oath of allegiance by John Furlong, Deputy District Director, for the USCIS, Boston District. Mayor Michael Brennan was the keynote speaker in a ceremony that lasted about l/2 hour.
“It’s not hard to give away what we were for something new and better,” said Ramon Rosario before the ceremony. Originally from the Dominican Republic, he met his wife there in 2003. Rosario works as a dental assistant at Portland North Dental Associates, after receiving extensive training here in Maine. “I would not have had that opportunity at home.” Muhammad Ala Aldeen has been in the US for five years. For 12 years, he worked as a security officer in the Security and Protection Office for the UN in Baghdad. He said he saw Saddam Hussein and “we always listened” to him, he said grinning. “We got used to air strikes that he used on the enemy.” Also from Iraq is Raad Alshawi, now a Munjoy Hill resident. He worked for the AP in Basriah as a photographer and interviewed many American officials such as Senator John McCain.
Mayor MIchael Brennan welcomed the new US citizens to Portland. “Diversity is one of our strengths. We are open to diversity. Welcome to our city. If there is anything we can do for you to make your life here easier, please let me know,” he told the former immigrants. Brennan recounted that his grandmother, Nora Mulkern, arrived in Portland Harbor from Galway Bay, Ireland in 1909. She was 14 years old and had a sixth grade education. She walked right up India Street to Custom House and became a US citizen. Later she married Robert Brennan. ” Wouldn’t my grandmother be surprised to know that I am the mayor of Portland?” he asked.
Yesterday’s ceremony was the largest in Portland in about ten years said John Furlong, USCIS Deputy District Director. It was a special ceremony because September 17th is Constitution Day and Citizenship Day in honor of the signing of the US Constitution in 1787. In 1952, President Harry Truman signed a bill formalizing the celebration of Citizenship Day. In 2004, Congress established September 17 as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.
Note: Top photo is of Raad Alshawi with his wife, Left, daughter, Right, and Son Hasanain, 11 years old, with US Citizenship Papers.