U.S. Veteran denied citizenship

Cuban-born man denied citizenship after almost 50 years in U.S
By Barbara Liston May 13, 2014 4:41 PM

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Mario Hernandez, 58, passed multiple background checks to serve in the U.S. 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 United States from Cuba at age 9, discovered he was not a U.S. citizen.

Hernandez applied for naturalization but in November was rejected by the U.S. 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."

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 naturalization after five years.

Hernandez told Reuters he long thought the military took care of his naturalization 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 naturalization.

In the appeal, Ricci wrote that Hernandez, then 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 naturalization, 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 honorable discharge in 1978, Hernandez worked for the federal and Florida state governments, including the U.S. 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 naturalization 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."

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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 naturalization paperwork.'"

(Editing by David Adams and Eric Walsh)

Murika! Phone Post 3.0

Yeah, that's fucked.  

He also had a full career in government, such bullshit.

disbeliever - lol @ serving in our military but not getting citizenship. Border hoppers will be sure to get a path to citizenship though!


disbeliever - 
xsrg95 - 
disbeliever - lol @ serving in our military but not getting citizenship. Border hoppers will be sure to get a path to citizenship though!


Really? Meh?


Procol Harum imo

disbeliever - lol @ serving in our military but not getting citizenship. Border hoppers will be sure to get a path to citizenship though!

Don't call them border hoppers! They're Dreamers! - Barry O

LOL @ this government


That man is more American than most Americans.

It will be fixed.

Road Warrior Fin - 

It will be fixed.

Yes, but why the fuck does he have to go through the grief.
Once they established he was a vet. Case should of been over.

A better man than anyone currently holding elected office, and a better man than those seeking to delay or block his path to citizenship.  That guy is the fucking embodiment of what we want for Americans.  Someone ought to be driving out to deliver him a gold-plated passport and the thanks of a nation.

Thanks, Kennedy. Phone Post 3.0

Obama's fault

it sounds like he got citizenship back then. This will be fixed but I agree it is wrong..