2018-01-18 / Front Page

From Iraq to Biddeford

Youngest Mainers become U.S. citizens
By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Officer Megan Nelson led 30 children in the Oath of Allegiance on Thursday, Jan. 11 at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine. Fatima Ajeel, right, took center stage as her four older sisters recited the pledge. Ajeel and her family arrived in Texas from Iraq in 2012 and have lived in Biddeford for the past three years. (Grant McPherson photo) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Officer Megan Nelson led 30 children in the Oath of Allegiance on Thursday, Jan. 11 at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine. Fatima Ajeel, right, took center stage as her four older sisters recited the pledge. Ajeel and her family arrived in Texas from Iraq in 2012 and have lived in Biddeford for the past three years. (Grant McPherson photo) BIDDEFORD – The Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine hosted a celebration of citizenship for 30 children, six of whom were from Biddeford.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services conducted the event and presented the children with certifications of citizenship on Thursday, Jan. 11. Unlike adults, who must file an application, sit for an interview and pass a test to become a citizen, the children celebrated in Portland became citizens either through their parents own naturalization process or adoption by a U.S. citizen. The children came from several different countries including Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ecuador, Iraq, People’s Republic of China, Somalia and Uganda. Aside from Biddeford, the other children live in Blue Hill, Brooklin, Gorham, Lewiston, Portland, Sanford and Westbrook.

Citizenship ceremonies are not a requirement for children as they are with adults.

“We arrange them as a celebration,” said U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Public Affairs Officer Paula Grenier said. “It’s fun for kids and for the ones on the older side it makes the occasion of getting their certification of citizenship more memorable.”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Officer Megan Nelson led the children in the Oath of Allegiance, which states that all new citizens of the U.S. renounce allegiances to any previous nation, defend the Constitution and bear arms on behalf of the U.S. when required by law. Nelson also led the children in the Pledge of Allegiance. Grenier said certifications of citizenship are mailed to families who do not attend the ceremony.

Huda Ajeel, 16, is the eldest of five sisters and received her certification of citizenship at Thursday’s ceremony. She was born in Iraq and her family moved to Texas in 2012. After living there for six months, they moved first to Portland, then Westbrook and now Biddeford. She said it took her mother about four months to become a citizen. A junior at Biddeford High School, she’s considering whether she’d like to go to college or open her own salon. She said she’d also like to study criminal law some day.

Ajeel helped her mom with the application because she does not speak English.

“The paper got sent back because of mistakes,” she said. “We were upset about it. We had to redo it and pay again. But now it’s good. We’re happy we finally became citizens. We waited for so long.”

Ajeel’s mother, who was able to apply for a passport, will be able to travel to Quwait to stay with family for a month. Ajeel can also apply for her passport and would like to visit Iraq.

“I miss my home,” she said. “I want to go back and stay for a couple months. I don’t want to go and live there right now. There’s nothing there.”

Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com

The Ajeel family is originally from Diwaniyah,

Iraq. From left, Zainab Albadri, with three of five daughters, Huda, 16 Noor, 8 and Fatima, 5. Huda said members of her family have also gone to England and Australia. Huda works and pays for her own car to help her mother take care of the rest of her sisters. (Grant McPherson photo)

Return to top