PORTLAND — World Refugee Day took on a local flavor June 17 as 24 people became citizens in a City Hall ceremony.

“It just feels good to be a citizen,” said Lewiston resident Sahra Osman Abdi, a Somalian who has been in America for 12 years.

The new citizens were refugees from nine nations and are residents of seven Maine communities.

Mayor Ethan Strimling provided keynote remarks at the 20-minute ceremony, following the Oath of Allegiance administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Portland Field Office Director Sally Blauvelt.

“I am so proud to have you as part of our community,” Strimling said.

“The Star Spangled Banner” was sung a capella by Ryan Friebele.

“This is great, it was a long time coming,” Gofran Ali said about the naturalization process that took a year and a half to complete. Ali and her mother, Muna Rashed, who now live in Portland, left Iraq six years ago.

Along with fingerprinting and background checks, applicants for naturalization must pass written, reading and verbal tests in English proficiency and a 100-question test on civics.

Gofran Ali, left, and Muna Rashed applaud after reciting the Oath of Allegiance to become U.S. citizens June 17 at City Hall. The natives of Iraq were among 24 refugees sworn in as part of World Refugee Day observances.

Sahra Osman Abdi, of Lewiston, greets Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling on June 17 at City Hall during a naturalization ceremony for 24 refugees. The native of Somalia has been in America for 12 years.

Twenty-four people, all considered refugees, take the Oath of Allegiance June 17 at Portland City Hall.Ryan Friebele, far left, sings “The Star Spangled Banner” June 20 as the Portland Police Honor Guard hoists the colors and 24 people become U.S. citizens at City Hall.

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