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USM to host U.S. citizenship event March 3 on Portland campus

The University of Southern Maine will host a naturalization ceremony on Friday, March 3, for more than 50 immigrants.

The celebration — planned by students in a "Global Migration and the Refugee Experience" class — will include the Oath of Allegiance and the awarding of certificates of naturalization, the official proof of U.S. citizenship.

The hour-long ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. in the Talbot Auditorium. It is located on the first floor of Luther Bonney Hall at 85 Bedford Street on the Portland Campus.

The ceremony will include remarks by USM President Glenn Cummings and Reza Jalali, USM's coordinator of Multicultural Student Affairs. It will also include musical performances by Victor Beca and Jean Beni Nkashama of Portland High School.

All will welcome the new citizens.

"For many of these people, it's a dream come true," said Jalali. "They've crossed hostile borders, oceans, mountains and deserts to get here."

Jalali is currently teaching "Global Migration and the Refugee Experience" at USM with a class that includes both university students and students from Portland area high schools.

"Despite a few shortcomings, America continues to draw people of different nationalities, ethnicities and religions to come here to rebuild lives," said Jalali, who became a citizen 25 years ago. "There are things that most Americans take for granted. Those of us who come from countries with oppressive regimes embrace America's rights and principles."

"Events like this allow us to welcome people into this magic we call 'America'," Jalali said.