BANGOR, Maine — Kristina Tran was so excited about her mother becoming a U.S. citizen Friday that she rushed from her father’s side into the well of U.S. District Court to throw her arms around her mother’s leg.
The 22-month-old daughter of Andy Tran and Jenny Nguyen, both 25, of Augusta didn’t really understand what was happening, but she was caught up in the excitement that filled the courtroom.
Nguyen was one of 20 people from 17 countries who became U.S. citizens in a 30-minute ceremony on the third floor of the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building in Bangor. She and her husband were born in Vietnam. He came to the U.S. with his parents when he was 7 and grew up in Sacramento, Calif.
The couple met when Tran returned to Vietnam about eight years ago to visit his grandmother, he said after the ceremony. The couple had a long-distance relationship for a year or two. He became a U.S. citizen in 2004 and they were married the next year when Nguyen came to the U.S.
“I want to reunite with my mom,” she said when asked why she had become a citizen. “She has not seen the baby.” Nguyen explained that it was not possible for her to return to Vietnam unless she was a U.S. citizen.
Christopher Duncombe Rae, 52, of Hampden and a native of South Africa, said he became a citizen because he would have more job opportunities as a U.S. citizen than as a resident alien. He’s also eager to vote in the coming election.
“He’s very unhappy that he can’t register to vote today because the town office is closed,” his wife, Deirdre Byrne, 42, said after the ceremony.
Hampden decided in June to close its town office on Fridays to save money.
Duncombe Rae and Byrne both are oceanographers at the School of Marine Science at the University of Maine. They first met in 1993 while doing research on a cruise. They were reunited in 2003 and married the next year. The couple study ocean currents.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration requires employees to be U.S. citizens, according to Duncombe Rae.
U.S. District Judge John Woodcock presided at the swearing-in ceremony. He urged the new citizens to write down the stories of their journeys to America before the end of the day for future generations.
“Whether you came here for love, for opportunity or for freedom makes no difference,” he said. “In the United States, it makes no difference who you were. It’s who you are that matters.”
In addition to Vietnam and South Africa, those sworn in Friday came from Australia, Belarus, Canada, China, Colombia, Georgia, Guatemala, Russia, Spain, Sudan and Ukraine.