CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A paperwork error in the 1950’s is apparently all that’s standing between a Padre Island resident and becoming a United States citizen.
Joe Venslauskas moved to this country from Germany with his family in 1950, at the age of three. He’s been here 71 years and served this country. A country who still sees him as German.
“I don’t have any ties, anything to do with Germany, except that I was born there,” said Venslauskas.
A U.S. Army veteran, Venslauskas thought he was a American citizen because his mother, Berta was granted citizenship in 1957. It wasn’t until he applied for Social Security, and was asked for proof of citizenship, that he found out his status.
“I gave them my mother’s proof of citizenship, I gave them my Army records, and everything I had,” said Venslauskas. “When we came to this country, how we came to this country.”
Thinking he needed to be a citizen to get Social Security, he applied for citizenship. He was denied. The reason, a mistake on his father’s death certificate, from 1954.
“It said he was a citizen, and I put down on paperwork that he was not,” said Venslauskas. “They denied me my citizenship in a letter saying I lied so I was being denied.”
“It’s an honest mistake by the person applying for citizenship,” said immigration attorney Debra Rodriguez. “He didn’t lie, he was mistaken.”
Venslauskas says an attorney told him he couldn’t appeal the denial. Rodriguez not only says he can, she believes proving Venslauskas’ father wasn’t a citizen should be relatively easy.
“It’s not uncommon for birth certificates and death certificates to have errors,” said Rodriguez.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, a foreign national has to be a permanent resident for five years before they can become a citizen. Venslauskas’ father died in 1954.
“He died four years after he came here, he didn’t have time to become a citizen.”
He was also able to get his Social Security benefits with a Green Card, but Venslauskas was disappointed to find out the country he served doesn’t consider him one of its own.
“I think that if you serve your country, you should have all the rights of everybody else because you defended those people.”
His family came here in search of the American Dream, now Venslauskas’ dream is to legally be an American.
“I’m an American, all the way,” he said. “Being here 71 years, I’m an American.”
We’ve passed along this new information to Venslauskas, who is looking into the appeals process. We’ll let you know if there’s an update to this story.