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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.

Join the discussion

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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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reelanimals May 17 2014 at 7:49 AM

It's not his fault his parents didn't finish the proper paperwork to be a citizen. He deserves to be a citizen.

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WmDWyatt May 17 2014 at 2:57 AM

Ounce again our so called fabulous government screwed up! I sreved 20 years and 5 campaigns in the US Military I fought side by side with men and women from the West Indies, Central & South America, Great Britten, and thrughout the South Pacific, that were soldiers,airmen and saliers that were in the US Military. Upon their Honorable Discharge they were given the option of becoming a US Citizen. However I guess our idiot of a halfbreed president obama does not understand that." F Y I" (I am a native american quarterbreed)

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2 replies
Joe WmDWyatt May 17 2014 at 3:08 AM

What does Obama have to do with this????? This all started in 1965 and that was what 8? 9? presidents ago. Why are you not putting any blame on them? I agree this service man should not be punished or restricted anything. It sounds like he has put in some hard time on the same job for 22years. Again, you need a better reason than Obama!!

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3 replies
bluehawk99 WmDWyatt May 17 2014 at 3:41 AM

You might want to learn to spell before posting...it makes you look illiterate!!!!

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1 reply
WmDWyatt bluehawk99 May 17 2014 at 3:50 AM

Sorry about that which part did I miss spell?( Im just a native american quarterbreed)

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hd88softail May 17 2014 at 8:01 AM

Dear Mr. Hernandez, first off thank you for your service and, as a fellow vet I say your a citizen in my eye's. The USA is for people like you who come here & do it the right way. Keep fighting the good fight and don't give up! God Bless & take care.

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