BANGOR, Maine — Marta Esmeralda Perkoski will be working during the day Friday, but after work, she will experience Independence Day in a new way — as a U.S. citizen.
A native of Honduras, Perkoski of Parsonsfield was one of 60 people who took the Oath of Allegiance on Thursday morning in a ceremony held at Gracie Theatre on the campus of Husson University.
Her husband, mother and other family members snapped Perkowski’s picture as she held up her certificate and grinned.
Although she’s lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years and marked many Fourths of July, Perkowski said that this year, “it feels different.”
“It feels like a new beginning,” she said.
Bob Needham, who was born in Canada, said after the ceremony that his four sons, ages 7 to 11, were the primary reason he became a citizen after living in the U.S. for almost two decades.
“My boys were all born in this country and they are getting to an age where they know what it means to be a U.S. citizen,” Needham of Veazie said after the ceremony. “I want them to see what freedoms they have and to take advantage of them.”
The ceremony was part of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ annual celebration of Independence Day. This year — to mark the nation’s 238th birthday — about 9,000 new citizens were expected to be sworn in at more than 100 naturalization ceremonies across the country between June 30 and July 5, according to a news release issued by the agency.
The 60 new citizens sworn in at Husson on Thursday came from many countries: Austria, Brazil, Burundi, Cambodia, Canada, China, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Germany, Ghana, Honduras, India, Iraq, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.
“Some of you come from ancient cultures, where age-old differences in class, in religion, in race and in ethnicity matter more than they do in this country,” U.S. District Judge John Woodcock told the new citizens and the more than 200 people who turned out to support them. “If you harbor a sense of superiority or exclusiveness, based on who you are, where you are from or who your parents are, do yourself and do us a favor and leave those prejudices behind.
“A central part of the freedom you have received today is the freedom to start again unburdened by the past,” the judge continued. “You can best repay the freedom this country has given you by giving your fellow Americans the same. For it matters little in the country what it was that brought you here. Whether you came here for love, for opportunity or for freedom, it makes no difference. In the United States, it does not matter who you were. It matters who you are. You are now free to do what you want, to say what you want and to become the person you want to be.”
The 60 new citizens reside in the following Maine cities and towns: Bangor, Bar Harbor, Belfast, Bowdoinham, Brewer, Brunswick, Bucksport, Camden, Corinna, Ellsworth, Fairfield, Falmouth, Hampden, Hebron, Lewiston, Mechanic Falls, Milford, North Berwick, Parsonsfield, Poland, Portland, South Portland, Vanceboro, Veazie, Warren, Westbrook and Winterport.
For the first time, the agency asked new citizens and their families and friends to share the experience and photos at their ceremonies via Twitter using the hashtag #newUScitizen.
To view a list of 2014 Independence Day naturalization ceremonies, visit www.uscis.gov/news.