U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services held a long-delayed ribbon cutting at its new South Portland field office on Thursday.
The facility has been operational since 2021 but the pandemic pushed back the date of a public opening.
Speaking at the event, Gov. Janet Mills said USCIS staff has the responsibility of explaining complicated federal law to new immigrants, including many who’ve taken great risks to reach the U.S.
“Many of the individuals who come here have undertaken dangerous journeys to reach Maine and the United States, making the sometimes very difficult decision to forsake their home countries for the chance at a better life,” she said.
After the ribbon cutting ceremony, 23 immigrants were naturalized as American citizens. Among them was Yussif Abdallah, originally from Ghana, who now lives in Bangor and runs an electronics repair shop.
Abdallah said he’s lived in the U.S. for four years, and is excited that gaining citizenship will allow him to participate in the political process.
“Ever since I came here, it has been a dream, to one day, you know, be officially to be able to vote,” he said. “And I think today is the day.”
Abdallah said after the ceremony he planned to go home and celebrate, adding that he was looking forward to the November elections, and the chance to cast a ballot.
This story appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.