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Proud Vietnam War veteran discovers he's not a U.S. citizen

Proud Vietnam War Veteran Discovers He's Not A U.S. Citizen

A Vietnam War veteran's identity and future in the U.S. changed in an instant when he applied for a passport and was told he'd never been an American citizen after all.

"I feel like my heart's been ripped out of my chest ... I really do..."

Immigration Services told Mario Hernandez not only is he not a citizen, but he's not even a legal resident, despite serving three years in the U.S. Army and working for the Bureau of Prisons for 22 years.

Hernandez says he first fell in love with America when he escaped from Cuba as a refugee in 1965. He was just 9 years old.

Cubans during that time were granted amnesty and were given social security numbers. They were, not, however, granted U.S. citizenship. Refugees could apply for residency after a year in the U.S., but Hernandez's parents never filed the necessary paperwork.

So, that could be where part of the confusion came in. But Hernandez and his lawyer Elizabeth Ricci argue Hernandez should have been granted citizenship upon his service in Vietnam.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act, such as military service under "periods of hostility," are grounds for immediate citizenship.

Employment with the Bureau of Prisons requires citizenship and recurring background checks, yet Hernandez was never told of any issues when he started 22 years ago.

Ricci says Immigration Services is trying to protect itself. "I think they are gravely embarrassed ... and are trying to shift the burden on him now to make him look like a criminal."

Now, the veteran is in a grey area. He could even face jail time because of his participation in past elections as a non-citizen.

Hernandez has voted in every presidential election since Jimmy Carter.

"I'm living in a bad dream, and it's like, I'm hoping I wake up."

Hernandez's wife has started a petition to the Secretary of Homeland Security, and so far the page has reached over 80,000 signatures. His wife writes that Hernandez's recent naturalization application was denied.

She says he was told to first receive residency through the Cuban Adjustment Act and then try to obtain citizenship again in five years, but they don't want to wait that long. In the meantime, Hernandez plans to fight for his future in the country he loves.

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flowersequipment May 17 2014 at 3:04 AM

Just for once, could a governmental agency not act like idiots and use some common sense to grant this request?

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2 replies
cjaneke flowersequipment May 17 2014 at 3:52 AM


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Jeannette flowersequipment May 17 2014 at 5:06 AM

Common sense and government are oxymorons. The other morons are in Congress, INS, HS, etc. With over 11 million illegals in this country (some say it is up to 20 million) that obama wants to legalize, with them just releasing 30,000 illegals from prison (convicted of rapes, murders, assaults, etc.) just prior to their deportation, these incompetent, useless bureaucrats want to charge this man with a crime. Let's first charge and deport those who are here illegally and came here illegally as adults. They are not making an example of him, they are making examples of themselves as complete idiots.

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dawn1990don May 17 2014 at 3:02 AM

I'd be proud to sign a petition, that man served this country and has more right to citizenship than most!

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jmar595870 May 17 2014 at 3:42 AM

If he was a someone who illegally cut in line and snuck into the US, Oblama would give it to him immediately.

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1 reply
alacranxxx jmar595870 May 17 2014 at 3:46 AM

Don't be naive. The ability of Cubans to cut in line ahead of anyone else who wants to come to the US has long been codified in law.

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wb7ptr May 17 2014 at 3:28 AM

This guy should be given immediate citizenship for having his heart ripped out. This is completley ridiculous. I'm going over to that petition page and sign it now. INS is stupid sometimes. REALLY stupid.

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F Spats May 17 2014 at 5:46 AM

I was born in this country and As a veteran, I am appalled that this beuracracy won't immediately grant him citizenship. There are tens of thousands born here who don't deserve citizenship but are ENTITLED to it.
All vets should sign this petition!

Frank Spats

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abudziak410 May 17 2014 at 7:48 AM

Just shows how this country is broken when it comes to the government. As a Viet Nam veteran it is a disgrace to be treated in this manner. Common sense do the right thing and make him a citizen NOW!

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Gayle May 17 2014 at 1:59 AM

I don't care where he came from, if he served this country he should be granted citizenship. He worked for 22 years in a job that required him to be a citizen. I think if the gov't screwed that up all this time, they should grant him citizenship just to pay him back for their screwup.

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CLAYTON May 17 2014 at 12:44 AM

He has done 99.99% more than our so called Senators and Congressmen. He actually did something.

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1 reply
CPA11973 CLAYTON May 17 2014 at 12:52 AM

if we made congress people (other than those that already served in the military) serve in Afganistan, I wouldn't be surprised if many deserted.

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JIMMY May 17 2014 at 8:53 AM

Just shows you how screwed up this government is. The first thing they have to do is acknowledge they screwed up and correct the mistakes made by investigating were the process went wrong. Don't blame the man, apologize and give him his earned citizenship.

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Barry May 17 2014 at 5:42 AM

It is even ridiculous for this Patriot, Veteran, employeee of the State or Federal Correctional System, who I am confident has paid taxes his entire life. Is is an insult to all of us for this man to have to validate or prove his allegiance as a citizen of the United States of America.

This man is an American Citizen ! He has proved it by his actions, by his service to this Country, of which I personally thank & respect him for his service in the military !

It is ludicrous that a legal loophole can't be plugged by some political or "Executive Power" or authority & not waste any more of this man & his family's time, energy & expense to validate his loyalty as a Citizen of USA !

Our President, is prepared to grant amesty to 12+ million illegal aliens who are criminals & have entered this Country illegally, have never serve this country in the military, risk their lives for Democracy & have NEVER paid taxes ! Shame on YOU, the US Federal Govt. Do the RIght Thing for a change !!!

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1 reply
atokageneral Barry May 17 2014 at 5:52 AM

...talk to your Republican representatives about immigration reform. We need to take these phony politicians to task.

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1 reply
chelsea.benz atokageneral May 17 2014 at 6:00 AM

Republicans in seats are part of the problem too. Wishy washy politicians who want to keep their position and not actually do what they promised. They all need to leave. Just need to wipe our hands clean of a lot of them and start fresh. Let's start with the White House and work our way down.

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