ILLEGALS BECOME CITIZENS OVERNIGHT
After years of living in the shadows in the U.S., two Co. Mayo siblings recently discovered they were American citizens since birth. Patricia Reddington, 27, and Patrick Reddington, 30, of Castlebar, Co. Mayo, knew that their Irish-born father, who lived in the U.S. for ten years in the fifties and sixties, was a U.S. citizen, but when Patrick, a carpenter, went to the U.S.
Embassy in Dublin 10 years ago to apply for his American citizenship he was told he was not eligible, even though two older Reddington siblings received their citizenship through their father in the nineties. “They told us the rules had changed and we didn’t know any different,” Patricia Reddington, a New York City bartender, told the Irish Voice from her home in Queens on Tuesday.
Both Patricia and Patrick, who now lives in San Francisco, came to the U.S. regardless of a lack of visa and have lived here ever since. Throughout their years here they did inquire about getting some kind of status, but they were told time and time again that it wasn’t possible – that was, until they had a meeting with Limerick-born immigration attorney James O’Malley, whose law offices are based in Manhattan.
“Another Mayo girl who works with James O’Malley, Caroline McHale, advised me to bring my situation to her boss and thank god we did,” said an elated Reddington, who first contacted O’Malley in 2007. O’Malley looked into the situation and soon discovered because the Reddingtons’ father had lived in the U.S. for 10 years and had paid taxes, and because the siblings were born after December 24, 1952 but before November 14, 1986, as required by U.S. immigration law, they were automatically entitled to U.S. citizenship. “The law was on their side and we won the case,” said O’Malley, who worked diligently to provide a paper trail that would prove conclusively that the father did indeed reside in the U.S. for 10 years, as required. “The day we got our citizenship papers it said on it that we were American citizens since birth. Isn’t it gas!” said Reddington. While living in the U.S. undocumented for the past seven years, Reddington traveled back and forth several times to Ireland. “I was just very lucky,” she said. However, her luck began to change in June 2008 when she was brought in for questioning by immigration authorities at JFK Airport on her way back from a trip to Ireland. “They asked me a lot of questions and I told them the truth. They knew that I had just left JFK a week before that,” she said. Reddington was told she would be deported back to Ireland. “When they said that to me I told them that I had a case pending, that I was an American citizen,” she said. After spending the night in a holding cell at JFK, Reddington was released after O’Malley sent over her paperwork. Obtaining their U.S. citizenship wasn’t a smooth ride for the Reddingtons. Legally they had a right to citizenship because they fitted into the correct law, but they had a hard time proving that their father lived and worked in the U.S for 10 years. “Even though we had my father’s ticket from his journey over and Social Security records we still failed the first interview because the evidence we had only put him here physically up to eight years,” said Reddington.
O’Malley immediately appealed the decision. After a lot more digging and getting their fathers old friends to sign affidavits, their appeal was granted. They received word from Washington in early December that O’Malley provided substantial evidence to show that they inherited citizenship from their father. During their research, the Reddingtons not only got what they wanted, they also discovered that their grandfather, who served in the U.S. Navy in 1919, in World War I, was also granted citizenship. Discovering that she was actually entitled to citizenship was a great feeling, Reddington said. “I couldn’t believe it. I think I’m still in shock but it means so much to me and Patrick.
Now we can go and come as we like without any worry. I feel like I was granted freedom. It’s like a whole new world to me,” she said. “If it wasn’t for Jim and Caroline we still would be undocumented,” said Reddington very gratefully. “It’s important for Irish people out there to look into this information if one of their parents is an American citizen. There are certain laws for different years.” Although slightly annoyed that she didn’t receive her entitled citizenship sooner, Reddington said she “appreciates is more now.”
Patricia and Patrick have booked vacations back to Ireland in the coming weeks and plan to book several more as the year goes on. “It was a great feeling this time being able to book a return ticket,” she said.
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