What went wrong? It’s a story of personal oversight and bureaucratic incompetence. On his arrival, he “was given open-ended parole, which allowed him to live and work in the United States but did not make him a [legal] resident,” the Times explains. He assumed–wrongly, as it turned out–that his parents had completed his citizenship paperwork. He enlisted in the Army in 1975 and “said he was given what he thought was a citizenship oath.” It wasn’t. “Several federal background checks” turned up nothing amiss with his immigration status.
But when he decided to take a retirement cruise, “he could not find any trace of the naturalization papers he needed to get a passport.” He filed for citizenship and was denied, even though it was his right because he served in the military during the Vietnam Era (which is legally defined as having ended in May 1975). A spokesman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services put out a statement apologizing “for handling Mr. Hernandez’s application as a regular naturalization case rather than a military one.”
Noncitizens, including legal resident aliens, are forbidden to vote in every state. States that have sought to incorporate verification of citizenship into the voter-registration process have encountered obstacles from the Obama administration and denunciations from the New York Times.
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