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Portland ceremony adds 79 new U.S. citizens

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Portland ceremony adds 79 new U.S. citizens

PORTLAND — Seventy-nine new Mainers emerged from Portland Public Library as U.S. citizens after a naturalization ceremony on Friday, Dec. 20.

The event, which occurs every month in Portland, featured a speech by gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine.

Michaud urged the new Mainers to embrace their citizenship, get involved in local government and run for public office, a notion that caused some in the audience to laugh. Michaud used the levity to recount his own quixotic journey to clean up the Penobscot River, which eventually led him into national politics.

"I hear some people laughing back there; but, yes, run for office," he said. "If a millworker, for over 29 years, can become a member of the United States Congress, there's no reason why any one of you in this room can't run for office and get elected, whether it's at the local level, county level, state level and, yes, the federal level."

Portland resident Huda Mohammad, 51, was among 79 immigrants from 30 countries who were sworn in, along with her husband and two daughters. The family moved to the United States from Iraq for safety reasons. She beamed as she recited the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America.

"I'm very happy," said Mohammad, who works as a sales associate at T.J. Maxx. "I feel safe. I can't feel safe in Iraq."

Her husband, Khalil Mohammad, 62, said he appreciates the law and order in the U.S. Even something as small as uniform traffic signals at every intersection is significant, he said.

"I like the system here; the system of law is good," said Khalil, who works for Portland Housing Authority.

The number of immigrants to be naturalized in Maine in fiscal year 2013 is not yet available. In recent years, nearly 1,000 immigrants were naturalized in Maine annually: 941 in 2012; 999 in 2011; 839 in 2010; 729 in 2009; and 924 in 2008.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or bmccanna@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.