Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Thirty-five children celebrated their first day as U.S. citizens in typical American fashion Wednesday afternoon: They attended a baseball game.
Participants in a celebration of citizenship prepare to carry out the American flag prior to the start of the Sea Dogs game at Hadlock Field on Wednesday.
Photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
Mana Abdow, 9, of Lewiston smiles during the celebration.
The children were part of a pre-game ceremony that celebrated their new citizenship at Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Sea Dogs.
The children, from Congo, Germany, the Philippines and Somalia, were presented certificates recognizing their citizenship, derived from their naturalized parents or adoption.
After the ceremony was held between home plate and the backstop, the children and their families stayed for the Sea Dogs' game with the Reading Phillies. The children held a giant American flag during the playing of the national anthem.
"A very nice ceremony," said Anita Rios Moore, a public affairs officer for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services-Northeast Region. "It was just one of those things -- apple pie, baseball, a real slice of Americana."
It was the first such ceremony at Hadlock Field, although U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has been holding naturalization ceremonies at ballparks for several years. Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, was the site of a ceremony on July 3.
Other ceremonies were held that day at stadiums in New Britain, Conn., and Manchester, N.H., and at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I., home of the Triple-A PawSox.
While those were actual naturalization ceremonies, attended mostly by adults, Wednesday's was meant to "recognize the children becoming citizens as well," said Moore.
William Schneider, Maine's attorney general, delivered the keynote address to the crowd. Jayson Hernandez, a popular catcher for the Sea Dogs, led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Portland office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services contacted the Sea Dogs in the last couple of years, seeking to hold a ceremony at Hadlock Field.
But "for one reason or another, logistics or dates, we just couldn't make it work," said Chris Cameron, the Sea Dogs' director of media relations. "It's something we've wanted to do. I just think that this is a perfect spot for kids to become an official American citizen, at a ballpark, attending America's pastime.
"We're hoping to make this an annual event."
The Sea Dogs provided the venue at no cost to the federal agency.
"It's a fabulous venue, one both the new citizens can enjoy, as well as the audience," said Sally Blauvelt, the agency's Portland field office director. "And it meets our mission of highlighting our naturalization and citizenship ceremonies."
Moore said Alejendro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has tried to move many such ceremonies out of auditoriums and courtrooms since he took the position in 2009.
Some ceremonies are held at national monuments or national parks.
"This is kind of unique and different than having the ceremony in an auditorium," said Geoffrey Iacuessa, executive vice president and general manager of the Sea Dogs.
"We're welcoming them to America at America's pastime."
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: