Immigration Law

Former supervisor with US prison bureau is shocked to learn he's not a citizen


Citizenship was a job requirement when Mario Hernandez worked as a federal prison supervisor.

But Hernandez is not a U.S. citizen, an issue that wasn’t discovered in background checks conducted every five years when Hernandez worked for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the New York Times reports.

Hernandez discovered the citizenship issue when he retired and sought a passport for a planned Caribbean cruise with his wife. Hernandez, a Cuban refugee, has lived nearly 50 years in the United States, the story says.

“I thought I was a citizen—I’ve always been proud of being a citizen,” Hernandez told the Times. “This has really messed with my head.”

According to the story, Hernandez’s mother and grandparents never informed him he wasn’t a citizen, and they failed to file paperwork needed for citizenship. He got a Social Security number, however, because of special immigration privileges for Cuban refugees. He served for three years in the U.S. Army and voted in all the major elections since Jimmy Carter became president.

“At a time when immigration overhaul remains on the table in Congress,” the story says, “Mr. Hernandez’s plight is the latest example, and one of the more extreme, of how large federal bureaucracies can stumble when it comes to identifying who is here legally, illegally or somewhere in between.”

Hernandez is seeking citizenship but he is currently in “immigration limbo,” the story says.

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