Tom Kacich: It's a red-tape 'fiasco'

Tom Kacich: It's a red-tape 'fiasco'

Anyone who remembers Stan James' tirades on the Champaign County Board about red tape and government inefficiency will find this ironic: The Rantoul Republican wants to retire but isn't sure he can because he's stuck in bureaucratic hell over the question of his U.S. citizenship.

James, a military brat born in Germany in 1952, said he applied for a U.S. passport in early November to prove his citizenship but still hasn't received it. Nor has he received any word on the status of his application.

He wants to retire in June from his job of 46 years at the Champaign County Housing Development Corp. in Rantoul, but unless he can prove his citizenship to qualify for retirement benefits, those plans will stay on hold.

"It's just been a fiasco," he said.

James' battle with the federal bureaucracy began almost a year ago, when he applied for Medicare and encountered problems. He eventually received temporary coverage, he said, but was told that "if I didn't get my passport by the time I was ready to start drawing my benefits, that at that time — which would be this year — I would lose my Medicare and I would not get my monthly benefit."

So he's retrieved all sorts of records about his father, who served in the Air Force for more than 20 years; his German-born mother; and himself — including a green card that shows he was born April 14, 1952, and admitted to the United States five months later as an "NP," or "nonpreference immigrant," a classification that includes children born to permanent residents during a temporary visit outside the U.S.

But so far, there's been no determination about his citizenship from the State Department's National Passport Center. He got U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth's office on the case because he felt a connection with her.

"She's military (U.S. Army) and she's got the background with all that. Plus her parents were immigrants," James said. "But it's been slow. I've got a stack of emails this thick between me and Karen George in her office."

(Duckworth's office later clarified that the senator's father is an American citizen but that her mother is a foreign-born immigrant who is now a citizen.)

He learned that his father was stationed in Roswell, N.M., in 1947, a place famous for the legend of a visit by a UFO that year.

"So I might be an alien," joked James, who was always good for a laugh at county board meetings. "Wouldn't that be something? Here I sit and I'm an alien."

More seriously, he's frustrated and nervous about the run-around.

"I've been on the county board (10 years). I've got my driver's license. I've got my draft card (two of them, actually). I was married for 17 years. I've got all kinds of records I've given them. It's been very nerve-wracking," he said. "You just can't get any answers. That's what really gets me.

"Until they rule on me one way or another, there's nothing that we can do."

When he tells his story to friends and acquaintances, James said they can't believe it. They'll joke that he's like a modern-day "Dreamer," one of the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children by their parents.

He doesn't appreciate the comparison.

"I am not a 'Dreamer.' I was born to a military man. I came back here in the 1950s, not now like they're talking about on a visa or that I was born illegally here. I'm not a 'Dreamer,'" he said, adding, "although I thought I could be governor."

James, who lived in a lot of places while his father was in the service, said his predicament reminds him of a story he read in sixth or seventh grade.

"It was called 'The Man Without a Country' and it was about a man who didn't belong anywhere," he said. "I used to have nightmares about that when I was little. You know how you dream about that's going to be me and I'm never going to know where I belong?

"We traveled all around when I was a kid, and I was always leaving friends behind, and you never feel an attachment."

Early voting

Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten reports that the number of vote-by-mail requests for the March 20 primary election is "three to four times" higher than it was for the comparable primary in 2014.

As of Tuesday afternoon, he said he had 1,963 requests for vote-by-mail ballots, and 1,217 of them were for Democratic ballots.

Conversely, there had also been 160 in-person early voters at the clerk's office in Urbana by Tuesday afternoon, and 74 of them requested Republican ballots.

Hulten said his office is promoting early voting because the University of Illinois and most area school districts will be out of session during the week of the primary.

Iroquois County Democrats

The Iroquois County Democrats' New Day/New Deal Dinner, set for March 3, will honor the 85th anniversary of the inauguration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR was inaugurated to his first term on March 4, 1933.

The event will be at Town and Country, 35 E. Jones St., Milford. Tickets are $15. More information is available at the group's website at iroquoisdemocrats.com.

The keynote speaker will be state Treasurer Mike Frerichs of Champaign. Colleen Callahan, director of USDA Rural Development, will emcee the event.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at kacich@news-gazette.com.

Sections (2):News, Local

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Berto71 wrote on February 14, 2018 at 11:02 am

Yeah, quite a few things to say here. First, it is ironic that Stan James is a Republican who probably voted for Trump, and may now be finding himself facing the short end of the stick in relation to the U.S. immigration laws.

The term "red tape" here is not appropriate. It would apply if Mr James was clearly entitled to a particular benefit and the government was making him jump through extra hoops to get that benefit. In this case the situation is different. The laws regarding aquisition of citizenship are very complicated, and have changed many times over the years. It was not the federal government's responsibility to make sure that Mr James' citizenship/legal residency paperwork is in order but his and his parents' responsibility. They had decades and decades to do that and they didn't. No doubt that over the years Mr James has filled out countless forms where the question about his citizeship status was asked, and no doubt he always answered "U.S. citizen". That's even though he never had a U.S. birth certificate, or a U.S. passport, or a naturalization/citizenship certificate, or a U.S. consular report of birth aborad. He may have believed that he was a U.S. citizen but the basis for that belief was rather thin, and he demonstrated a strange lack of curiousity, bordering on wilful ignorance, about his status during all these years.

Now, on the substance. Even if it turns out that he did not derive U.S. citizenship through his father, Mr James was still admitted in September 1952 as a legal immigrant. He is eligible for adjustment of status  to that of a permanent U.S. resident (getting a "green card") under the provision of INA called "registry" [INA Section 249, 8 U.S. Code Ch. 1259] because he entered the U.S. before January 1, 1972. So, even if his passport application is denied, he can filed an adjustment of status I-485 application with USCIS and get a green card. Then he'll be eligible for Medicare and all the same retirement benefits that a U.S. citizen is eligible for.

About deriving citizenship through his father. Here things are fairly murky. For deriving citizenship at birth one should look at the law that was in effect when Mr James was born, that is on April 14, 1952. According to the 1940 statute in effect at the time, for a child born to a U.S. citizen parent and an alien parent, the U.S. citizen parent had to have resided in the United States or its outlying possessions for 10 years, at least 5 of which were after attaining the age of 16 years in order to transmit U.S. citizenship to the child.  

So Mr. James would have to find and provide proof of his father having satissfied the above residency requirement prior to Mr. James' birth. If Mr James can do that, the State Department should issue him a U.S. passport. But it is not easy to provide such a proof, now that more than 70 years have passed. This problem really should have been dealt with shortly after Mr James' parents brought him to the U.S.

By the way,  retirement and Medicare are not the only things he has to worry about. By the end of this year Illinois will start enforcing the federal Real ID Act when issuing driver's licenses. Which means that a proof of U.S. citizenship or legal status will be required for a driver's license to be issued. If Mr James does not have a U.S. passport or a perment resident card then, he'll be in trouble. 

   

 

DJ93 wrote on February 15, 2018 at 2:02 pm

It is very ironic that Stan James is in this predicament.  He has known his entire life that he is not a U.S. citizen but has made no attempts to rectify the situation until he wished to receive what he feels is his entitlement from the government.  Mr. James isn't "jumping through red tape" this is a direct result of is indolence.  His irresponsibility does not make him a victim of bureaucracy.  Furthermore, Mr. James uses his ignorant joking claiming he is an alien to deflect from his obvious neligence in getting his affairs in order.  Mr.James is considered a resident alien in the eyes of the law since he is not a U.S. citizen.  Also, Mr. James states he received two "draft cards".  These cards would have been a Registration Certificate and Notice of Classification which were issued prior to the early 1970's.  This registration was required of all male U.S. citizens and aliens.  Therefore, these cards would not prove U.S. citizenship.  The most insightful and truthful statement Mr. James made in this article is that he traveled so much as a child that he was never able to feel attachment.  Anyone who knows Mr. James is aware he has two daughters who left home before the age of 18 and several grandchildren that he has never met due to his inability to be able to feel attachment.  In conclusion Mr. James, you are not a victim but a product of your own egotism.

stan james wrote on February 16, 2018 at 9:02 am

Wow DJ93 seems to have an attitude. Its sad some one can write something and distort facts with out any way to validate their comments. If I were to write about another individual I would share my name and contact info instead of doing so in a manner to where I felt I could dig at a person and yet remain hidden.

I don't care to respond to comments about family members in an open forum. I would respond to those whom need to know the truth and share hard facts to back up any comments. Those needing to invest themselves in our family history based on facts can reach out to me to discuss needed information.

Whom-ever you might be, remember the saying "we only need to look in a mirror to see a true reflection". I would venture a guess you live to destroy others by unfounded gossip which is good fodder at a gathering of friends(your friends).

For the record you are very wrong on the classifications noted on my two draft cards. Please gather truthful facts as you preceed through your life journey and Keep your nose out of other individuals concerns. I never said I was a victm you did. So it appears you seem to beleive you are a know it all.

Stan