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Dublin: 1 °C Wednesday 26 November, 2014

Irishwoman, illegal alien for 89 years, to become US citizen

Josephine Stout only discovered her undocumented status when her daughter was murdered and she had to care for her grandchildren.

Chicago: The city where Josephine Stout settled as a toddler with her parents after they arrived on a boat from Ireland.
Chicago: The city where Josephine Stout settled as a toddler with her parents after they arrived on a boat from Ireland.
Image: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

THE PLIGHT OF Irish people currently living in the US without a green card is a long-running issue but one nonegenarian woman living in Chicago could hardly have believed that it would be of concern to her life.

Josephine Stout, who only knew that she had arrived in Chicago from Ireland as a small baby in the 1920s, always believed herself to be an American citizen. However, her astonishing case has been highlighted by the Chicago Tribune – the paper ran a lengthy feature on her story on Christmas Day.  In it, author Dawn Turner Trice recounts how Stout only realised that she was in citizenship limbo when her daughter was murdered and Stout became responsible for her young grandchildren.

What followed was a 12-year battle to establish that Stout was a rightful long-term resident of the USA and entitled to the supports and help needed to care for her grandchildren. She had a Social Security card from her time working at a fur company from the age of 17 until her own children were born – but as it turned out, no proof that she was actually a US citizen.

The whole odyssey is worth reading here - it traces the journey needed to establish where Josephine had come from, how she had arrived in the US and whether her parents ever even became US citizens themselves. In the course of the investigation, Josephine discovers she was born in March 1922 in a poorhouse in Limerick but her parents managed to bring her on board with them on a ship bound for Chicago 18 months after her birth, set for a new life.

There is good news for Josephine – she was finally issued with a green card in September of last year, and on 13 December this year, had her application to become a full US citizen kickstarted. She should become a citizen within a few months.

Stout’s reaction? “I just can’t see how a piece of paper will make me feel more American than I already do.”

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