In general, most of us in Lancaster County believe we can trust the military. Maybe we don’t agree with everything it does or says, but it is usually fairly honest. So, if a commanding officer told a soldier that he or she had just become a U.S. citizen, why would he or she have any reason not to believe the officer?
And that’s exactly what a Cuban-born, 58-year-old man did when he enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He was brought to the country in 1965 as a 9-year-old boy and, in 1966, he was eligible to apply for a green card through the Cuban Adjustment Act. Five years later, he would have been able to naturalize (had he been 18). Instead, he did not naturalize until 1975 when he enlisted, or so he thought.
The military told him that it had taken care of his naturalization under a federal provision that allows immigrant soldiers to proceed forward to naturalization during a “designated period of hostility.” Even though he was brought before someone he believed to be an immigration judge and administered what he believed to be an oath of citizenship, the man never became a U.S. citizen.
After he left the army, the man worked for the federal and Flordia state governments before finally retiring. As part of his employment, he was required to undergo a background check every five years. Despite all of this, it wasn’t until he was 58 years old and applying for a passport that he was told he wasn’t a citizen. Now, he faces an uncertain future as he tries to sort out something he thought had been resolved nearly 40 years prior.
Source: Reuters, “Cuban-born man denied citizenship after almost 50 years in U.S.,” Barbara Liston, May 13, 2014