What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and discovered that you were not a United States citizen? Would you question how the federal government could make such a mistake? Would you tell the government and risk deportation or would you continue to keep it a secret? Would you seek legal representation to resolve the issue?
To some of our Seattle readers this might seem like a farfetched scenario; but for a 58-year-old man living in Florida, this was a real-life problem he never knew he had. Now he is dealing with pushback from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is requesting information from him, including why he had claimed to be a citizen for nearly 50 years as well as registered to vote and voted in several elections. It's a burden the man's lawyer says “makes him look like a criminal.”
The mix up happened because the man's parents failed to file the appropriate paperwork for citizenship when he was a child. And though there are several circumstances in this man's case that will prevent him from being deported -- he is a Cuban refugee and served in the U.S. armed forced during a “designated period of hostility”--he could face fines and even prison time for claiming to have been a citizen when in fact he was not.
Although the U.S. government is ultimately to blame for the amount of time that passed before the man learned about his immigration status, the burden of proof now rests on his shoulders. But with help from a skilled attorney, the hope is that he will not have to face any criminal charges for a 49-year-old clerical error.
Source: The New York Times, “After Forming Deep Roots in U.S., Man Discovers He Isn't a Citizen,” Lizette Alvarex, May 12, 2014