BANGOR, Maine — The first document Jarvis Lewis signed his name to after taking the oath of citizenship was a voter registration card.
“I want to vote to be able to determine my future,” Lewis, 32, of Portland said Friday after a brief ceremony in U.S. District Court.
A native of Haiti, Lewis has been in Maine since 2013 and is a full-time student at the University of Southern Maine majoring in environmental science.
Lewis did not say who he would vote for in November.
Members of the League of Women Voters of Maine helped new citizens fill out the cards so they will be able to vote in November.
Jose Yong, 45, of Sanford also registered to vote.
“I am very happy to be an American citizen because America is a great country,” he said in halting English.
His daughter, Belen Yong, 15, was excited not only for her father but because she and her sister automatically became citizens when he did.
“I think it’s cool. I’m very proud of him. It changes my life, too,” the teenager said after the ceremony. “I’ll be able to vote, too, in a few years.”
Under U.S. law, the foreign-born minor children of new citizens also become U.S. citizens when a parent does, if they reside with that parent.
Jose Yong, like most others, did not attend Friday’s event alone. In addition to his two daughters, his nieces and one of their friends were there. Husbands, wives, children, friends, neighbors and co-workers gathered in the third floor courtroom in the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building to be part of the ceremony.
“By taking that oath of citizenship, you have become as much an American as any other citizen in this country,” U.S. Magistrate Judge John Nivison, who presided over the ceremony, told the new citizens. “We welcome you.
“We also thank you for reminding us of the significance of our own citizenship through your desire for citizenship through the oath that you took today, and through the many smiles and excitement we can feel in this room,” he concluded. “You have reinforced in all of us and underscored the importance of the freedoms that we enjoy in this great country. Those are freedoms that you now all share.”
Lewis and Yong were two of 18 people from 12 countries who became naturalized American citizens Friday. In addition to Haiti and Ecuador, natives of Somalia, Ethiopia, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Nepal, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Vietnam and Venezuela took the oath.
Last month, 22 people from Bosnia, Congo-Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Iraq, Kosovo, Palestine, Somalia and Sudan became citizens on World Refugee Day at Portland City Hall.
In 2015, 1,176 Maine residents became citizens, according to statistics from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The most recent statistics for 2016 showed that 218 people became citizens between Jan. 1 and March 31, down from the 251 who took the oath last year in the first quarter.