US-Raised Vietnam Veteran Born in Cuba Denied Citizenship
EspañolAfter living 50 years in the United States, 58-year-old Cuban Mario Hernández learned that he was not a US citizen. Hernández enlisted into the US Army at age 19 and later worked as a federal prison guard, where he was put in charge of Timothy McVeigh, the mass-murderer convicted of the 1995 Oklahoma building bombing.
But in 2013, when Hernández retired from public service and requested a passport to travel with his wife, he received the news that he was not a US citizen. He then applied for naturalization but the Department of Homeland Security rejected his application in March.
Hernández came to the United States with his family in 1965 aboard the Pan American World Airways’ “Freedom Flight.” Under the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, he could apply for a green card, which grants permanent residence, and after five years he could apply for naturalization. But Hernandez always thought the Army had taken care of the paperwork when he enlisted for the Vietnam War in 1975.
His lawyer, Elizabeth Ricci, said federal law allows immigrants who serve in a “designated period of hostility” to directly acquire citizenship, but the counselor, who filed an appeal, now fears that the agency is trying to press charges against Hernández for posing as a US citizen.
Ricci believes there may be hundreds of thousands of cases cases like Hernández’s, due to the Army’s failing to follow through with the naturalization process.