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SEAL HARBOR, Maine (WABI) – 25 people from 16 countries all gathered at Acadia National Park Friday as they were welcomed home as new American citizens.
“They either entered the country with immigrant visas or adjusted from a non-immigrant status to an immigrant status. And after a required period of time, whether it was for five years or for three years, they made the decision to apply for citizenship,” explains Denis Riordan, District Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services District 11, of the process to get to the ceremony. “And they made a commitment to do the work, there’s a lot of hard work. For many, English is their second language. Studying government and history, reading and writing. They put in a lot of time, a lot of effort into it, but they have a great desire and the reward, what they have received today, has given them a new opportunity, a new vision, a new hope, for a long, rich life in America.”
Alongside Acadia National Park staff and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), League of Women Voters was present to offer resources for the new citizens, including voter registration and information.
Beyond systemic support, friends and family looked and cheered on as their loved ones took the final step in their unique journey to citizenship.
“I’m from Bosnia originally. I’ve lived here for the last five years and today’s the day,” says Stefan, a new U.S. citizen sworn in at the ceremony. “Feels amazing. I’m still soaking it up.” Aleksandar Turner describes his story to citizenship as, “I was lucky, actually, me and my wife. So, I won the lottery. The United States gives around 50,000 green cards all over the world, and I applied online, and for me, it was easy-peasy. Me and my wife, we both came from Serbia, and we came to Bar Harbor in 2014 for the first time as students, and we love the place, and we spent like the past eight summers here. ”We asked the two young men what attaining United States citizenship means to them;
“I think for me, means freedom and feels almost like a gateway to the world in a way,” says Stefan. “God bless America.”
“I think something that symbolizes America is freedom. Freedom like speech, expression, like you have opportunity. It’s land of opportunity and it’s just the greatest country,” Aleksandar says of his interpretation.
Throughout the ceremony, Riordan, Acadia National Park Deputy Superintendent Brandon Bies, and other USCIS representatives emphasized the importance immigrants bring to the country.
“We are a stronger country today than we were yesterday because 25 people put the work in, made the commitment to this country, took the Oath of Allegiance, made promises to this nation, and they will fulfill those promises,” says Riordan.
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