Cuban Man Realizes He's Not a Citizen After Nearly 50 Years

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Mario Hernandez arrived in the United States as a Cuban refugee in 1965. He was only 9-years-old. Now, after nearly 50 years of living in the U.S., Hernandez made a discovery that's left him in a complete state of shock: He is not an American citizen or even a U.S. resident.

“I thought I was a citizen — I’ve always been proud of being a citizen,” Hernandez, 58, said. “This has really messed with my head.”

According to The New York Times, Hernandez came to realize his status after he and his wife decided they wanted to go on a cruise to the Caribbean -- this would be the first time he had been out of the U.S. since arriving in 1965 -- and he read he'd need a passport but didn't have one. The 58-year-old then began to wonder if he even had naturalization papers but found out he does not.

“It’s like I’m living a bad dream,” he told The New York Times. “This cannot be real; I’ve been living here 49 years. This is the only country I’ve ever known.”

The New York Times reports that the only immigration document Hernandez has is a parole document he received as a 9-year-old when he arrived at Miami’s Freedom Tower with his family. This document allowed him to remain in the U.S. indefinitely.

Hernandez finds himself in what they call immigration limbo -- he is not fully legal but he is also not fully illegal.

“It’s a classic example of government inefficiency,” said Hernandez's lawyer, Elizabeth Ricci.

So what does this all mean for Hernandez? Since he is a Cuban refugee and military vet, deportation isn't on the horizon for Hernandez. But the Bureau of Prisons retiree could face prison and fines, would no longer be allowed to vote, and will be unable to leave the country.

This is so sad. What are your thoughts on this situation?

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Priscilla Rodriguez, Associate Editor

Priscilla Rodriguez is Latina.com’s Associate Editor. She provides coverage on nearly every topic with a focus on celebrity entertainment. Before hitting the pavement at Latina, Priscilla worked for various outlets including Teen.com, InStyle and Us Weekly. You can follow her on Twitter @priscilrodrig.

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