Man denied citizenship after 50yrs in US

2014-05-14 13:33

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Orlando - Mario Hernandez, aged 58, passed multiple background checks to serve in the US Army and as a federal prison guard trusted enough to watch over Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

It wasn't until he retired from government service and began in 2013 to apply for a passport to take his wife on a cruise that Hernandez, brought to the US from Cuba at age 9, discovered he was not a US citizen.

Hernandez applied for naturalization but in November was rejected by the US Department of Homeland Security.

Now, immigration lawyer Elizabeth Ricci, who filed an appeal, fears the agency, caught in what she called a "P.R. nightmare", is preparing criminal charges accusing him of falsely holding himself out as a citizen.

"This feels like my whole world is being turned upside down," Hernandez said. "I'm very afraid."

'Betrayed veteran'

Hernandez arrived with his family from in 1965 aboard a so-called "Freedom Flight." Under the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, he was eligible to apply for a green card, or permanent resident status, after one year and for naturalisation after five years.

Hernandez told Reuters he long thought the military took care of his naturalisation paperwork when he enlisted in 1975 during the Vietnam War. Ricci said federal law allows immigrants who serve during a "designated period of hostility" to skip directly to naturalisation.

In the appeal, Ricci wrote that Hernandez, then aged 19, gave Army recruiters in California his immigration documents and was taken to what he thought was an immigration judge. The judge reviewed the paperwork, administered what Hernandez believed to be an oath of naturalisation, and changed Hernandez's name by dropping one of his surnames.

Hernandez then was taken back to his Army recruitment post where he took a second oath with other soldiers and joined them on a train to Fort Polk, Louisiana, according to the appeal.

After an honourable discharge in 1978, Hernandez worked for the federal and Florida state governments, including the US Department of Justice's Bureau of Prisons, which conducted background checks on employees every five years.

"They dropped the ball, over and over and over, despite having unlimited resources," said Ricci.

Ricci said Hernandez also qualifies for naturalization under a provision for aliens who make an extraordinary contribution to national security.

Hernandez could start the standard five-year naturalisation process as if he just arrived from Cuba and did not serve the country, but chooses not to.

"I'm a veteran," Hernandez said. "I feel like I'm betrayed."

Government 'mortified'

In the two weeks since she filed the appeal, Ricci said the government requested Hernandez provide a sworn statement concerning when, where, how and why Hernandez claimed to be a US citizen, including his voting records.

Ricci said the information sought appeared to be related to a criminal prosecution rather than an attempt to correct his legal status.

"I think the federal government is mortified how they dropped the ball so many times and they're turning it around and putting the burden on him to prove he is not a criminal," Ricci said.

A spokesman for US Citizenship and Immigration Services could not be reached for comment.

Ricci said she previously represented two other clients with similar experiences in the military.

"I suspect there are hundreds if not thousands of cases like this around the country," Ricci said. "I think more people will hear his case and say, 'Hey, I never did get that naturalisation paperwork.'"

Read more on:    cuba  |  us
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Hottie of the day: Nicole Meyer!

Nicole is the cover girl for the 2014 edition of SA Swimsuit! Check out some smoking hot pics of here here.

 
 

Men24.com

11 things men don’t know about their clothes
Hilarious mortal kombat elevator prank!
This is how the Top Gear presenters spend their £55 million!
Thirty and still single? There’s hope!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

Good Morning, Mr Mandela by Zelda la Grange

Good Morning, Mr Mandela tells the extraordinary story of how a young woman had her life, beliefs, prejudices and everything she once believed in utterly transformed by the greatest man of her time. Now R221. Pre-order now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It may be hard to stay cool, calm and collected. Your emotions can get quite heated in the moment. You may benefit from finding a...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.