Abdul Rahim, his daughter and her son immigrated to the U.S. from Afghanistan. She's been a citizen for a number of years, but Rahim became an American Wednesday. Credit: Willis Ryder Arnold | Maine Public

Sixty-six immigrants became American citizens Wednesday in Portland, amid a summer that saw an influx of asylum seekers to the area.

Elhdi Adam is from Sudan and was naturalized in 2004. He attended the ceremony to support a friend’s wife who was taking the oath of citizenship.

He said supporting education for asylum seekers and immigrants helps them contribute back to the state. “They can help them in this moment to go to the school and get better education, and learn more English, and they can work better, and make the Maine economy stronger,” Adam said.

Credit: Willis Ryder Arnold | Maine Public

U.S. House Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat who represents Maine’s 1st Congressional District, reminded the crowd that all Americans, except indigenous people, come from a legacy of immigration.

“Unfortunately, we have more people dying each day than being born in this state,” Pingree said, “and immigrants are our future. You are our future.”

Pingree took a moment to acknowledge her own family’s lineage, which includes her grandfather’s immigration to the U.S. from Norway.

People from several countries were naturalized during the ceremony at Portland’s Ocean Gateway. They hailed from 35 different countries, including New Zealand, Iraq, the United Kingdom and Sudan.

Nearly 450 people seeking asylum in the U.S. arrived in Maine over the summer. Many of them have found housing, but questions remain about how best to support their development in Maine.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.

Related: The story of immigration in Maine goes back centuries