Rosaly Parker’s journey to U.S. citizenship began with a chance meeting with a man from New England.
While visiting family in Massachusetts, Rosaly, a Mexico native now living in Bradford, met her now-husband Brian in a “love at first sight” moment, and has been living in the United States for the past five years.
Rosaly was one of 24 people from 18 countries who were sworn in as U.S. citizens Friday morning at the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building in Bangor. Eleven of the candidates were also granted a name change as part of the ceremony.
Magistrate Judge John Nivison, who presided over the ceremony, welcomed the new citizens with congratulations, thanking them for “reminding us of the values of our own citizenship.”
Representatives from Sen. Susan Collins’ office, the League of Women Voters and the Daughters of the American Revolution were also present.
Raising their right hands, the candidates took the oath of citizenship from Deputy Clerk Maggie Melanson, vowing to renounce allegiance to their home countries. They received their certificates of citizenship and, with friends and family, said the “Pledge of Allegiance” as new citizens.
“You, as individuals and a group, are America. Welcome to your new citizenship,” U.S. District Judge Lance Walker told the new citizens.
Walker urged the new citizens to share their art, music, language and, especially with him, their recipes, which brought laughs from those in attendance.
He said their new duties as citizens include educating and informing themselves, speaking out about things that matter, and loving their families.
“It does not matter in the U.S. who you were, but who you are, and what you do,” he said.
Arfonay Hussein of Lewiston, who was born in Somalia before moving to the United States as a 7-year-old, missed the citizenship ceremony but was able to take the citizenship oath from Melanson as the courtroom cleared out.
Parker said she is looking forward to “all the benefits” of citizenship, including voting and traveling outside the country. Bradford Town Manager Vittoria Stevens attended Friday’s ceremony and came with a voter registration form so Parker could register immediately.
Parker was joined at the ceremony by her in-laws; husband; mother Rosalia; and sons Alejandro, 2 months, and William, 22 months, who was running around their feet waving an American flag.
Despite anti-immigration sentiments others have experienced, Parker said she’s had a warm welcome from her neighbors.
“People are great in Maine,” she said.
“[Immigrants] are hard workers,” she added. “Most of them are here to work for their families.”