Chamis Omar, second from the right, raises her hand as she recites the Oath of Allegiance, marking her and those around her American Citizens. Chance Viles / The Forecaster

CAPE ELIZABETH — Nearly 50 immigrants were naturalized as American citizens at a ceremony held at Cape Elizabeth High School Dec. 6, the final step in a long journey towards citizenship.

Newly naturalized Americans film and watch the crowd, who greeted them with a standing ovation and cheers. Chance Viles / The Forecaster

The immigrants hailed from about 20 different countries, all of whom have settled in communities between Wells and Wiscasset and west to Windham.

“I am very excited about this, I am excited to be a citizen and we are grateful to be accepted, and to have my family here is huge for me,” Chamis Omar said, a Portland resident who immigrated from Djibouti, a country in East Africa, almost 10 years ago.

“Chamis is already an outstanding American, even before she became a citizen, so I am so happy for her,” said Carla Gill, Omar’s neighbor and friend. “We’ve gotten to know one another well, we share sugar, baking stuff, her family is great as well, and I couldn’t think of someone who deserves this more.”

Omar is a case manager at the nonprofit Opportunity Alliance and is studying Human Services at Southern Maine Community College. A mother of four, Omar moved to Maine following some family and quickly fell in love with Portland. She now spends her time working with locals in need.

“It’s a big step, after being here for so long, I am definitely proud,” she said.

Chamis Omar, left, with her family. From left to right: Sons Wali and King, husband Abdoulkader, and daughters Anissa and Hilsan. The family is from Djibouti and has lived in Portland for the past decade. Chance Viles/The Forecaster

The high school auditorium was full, with overflow attendees standing in the back and on the sides. Students performed poems and songs in honor of the new citizens, joining the newly naturalized in their first Pledge of Allegiance as American citizens. Keynote speeches were given by science teacher Asyun Simpson and French and Spanish teacher Sonia Medina.

“I see my immigrant background as a source of strength,” Medina said. Medina, the child of two Spanish citizens, was born in France and spoke about her life balancing numerous cultural identities.

The new citizens hail from over 19 countries on every continent but Antarctica.

In 2019, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services welcomed approximately 834,000 citizens during naturalization ceremonies celebrated across the United States and around the world, a larger number than previous years.

According to a report done by Homeland Security in 2017, U.S. naturalizations fell to 707,265 persons in 2017, down 6.1% from 753,060 in 2016 and down 3.1% percent from 730,259 in 2015. Meanwhile, the number of applications for citizenship increased from 972,151 in 2016 to 986,851 in 2017 (1.5%). The number of applications exceeds the number of naturalizations because of the lag in processing applications and because 11.8% of applications adjudicated in 2017 were denied.

Sonia Medina, a Cape Elizabeth High School French and Spanish instructor, gives her keynote speech, detailing her life as an immigrant and U.S citizen. Chance Viles/The Forecaster

“There are a bunch of reasons I moved, but mainly I had an affinity to America and its culture, but I also have a young son. Increasingly, there are fewer opportunities for work and education in our home country,” Aaron Diamond said.

Diamond, 64, immigrated from South Africa and is settled in Cape Elizabeth. He spent his time before the ceremony with a newfound friend, Eduard Chenette, 31, a Russian immigrant settled in Saco.

“I am feeling really grateful and proud right now,” Chenette said before the ceremony. “It’s been a long process, but since I first came to the United States, I knew I wanted to be a part of this country.”

Bryan Jumapit, an immigrant from the Philippines living in Saco, recites the Oath of Allegiance. “I am very excited,” Jumapit said. “My family is (in Maine) and I am happy to join them.” Chance Viles / The Forecaster

Aaron Diamond, of South Africa, stands with his new friend, Eduard Chenette, of Russia. Corsages and boutonnieres were provided to the new Americans by Fiddleheads Florist, of Cape Elizabeth. Chance Viles / The Forecaster

A video entitled “Faces of America,” kicked off the naturalization ceremony held at Cape Elizabeth High School on Dec. 6. Chance Viles / The Forecaster

The new citizens stand as their country of origin is called. Standing behind the first row is a group of immigrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Chance Viles / The Forecaster

Cape Elizabeth High School students and faculty join the 45 new Americans in their first Pledge of Allegiance as citizens. Chance Viles / The Forecaster

Newly naturalized citizens join in their first Pledge of Allegiance as Americans. Chance Viles / The Forecaster

Forty-five immigrants were naturalized Friday, hailing from a total of 19 countries. Chance Viles / The Forecaster

CEHS Principal Jeff Shedd opens the event. Chance Viles/The Forecaster

The ceremony was well attended. In the front rows are the families and friends of those being naturalized. Behind them are Cape Elizabeth students and faculty members. Chance Viles / The Forecaster

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