A Vietnam veteran who served three years in the military and came to the US on a freedom flight from Cuba at the age of 9, is now being told that he is not a US citizen. Mario Hernandez wanted to take his wife on a cruise, and as he went to apply for a US Passport, he was denied the right to have one, making the claim that he was not a US citizen. Hernandez says that he became a citizen after being sworn in to the military, but there is no longer any record of it.
He raised his right hand and joined the army, but now a local veteran is being told he’s not an American.
A Vietnam era army veteran – who went on to work years with the federal government – gets the surprise of his life.
He’s not a U.S. citizen and immigration authorities tell him he may have to wait years to become one.
“My wife and I, she’s about to retire, and we decided to take a cruise,” Mario Hernandez said.
Hernandez was stunned to discover he could not apply for a U.S. passport.
“Then I find out, ‘Hey’, that I’m not a U.S. citizen and I was never made one, according to the records that they don’t have,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez is incredulous. He came to this county at the age of 9 on a freedom flight from Cuba.
Ten years later he would join the U.S. Army and train for combat in Vietnam.
“I was made a citizen in 1975 when I went into the service,” Hernandez said. He served three years stateside.
Hernandez went on to work for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, the state of Florida and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, passing each and every background check along the way.
But on March 6th of this year, immigration authorities denied him U.S. citizenship.
“He can – worse case scenario – be held indefinitely incarceration, he could be required to regularly check in with immigration under an order of supervision, he can risk his pension, his VA benefits, a lots at stake,” says immigration attorney Elizabeth Ricci, who is handling the case pro bono. His military service during a time of hostility should guarantee him naturalization, she said.
“I guess my service didn’t mean anything,” Hernandez said, “and me working for the government didn’t mean anything.”