Augustan learns citizenship is in doubt

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Meet Ethel Davis: Wife. Grandmother. Churchgoer. Plant worker. Homeowner. Taxpayer.

But it turns out she's lacking a label she'd taken for granted: American. After a lifetime of believing she was a citizen, a bureaucratic runaround has Mrs. Davis, 64, worried she's an illegal immigrant.

She's legal, according to immigration law experts, just not entirely documented.

The trouble started when Mrs. Davis went to the Social Security office on Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway last year to apply for retirement benefits. She said a woman there told her she's not eligible because they have no record of her.

In fact, the woman said, she's not even a citizen.

"It floored me," Mrs. Davis said.

She was born in Sparta, Greece, but because her mother, Sofia Nicolopoulos, was born in Richmond, Va., she thought that made her an American, too, she said.

Mrs. Nicolopoulos left the U.S. with her father around age 6, after her mother died. For her to have transmitted citizenship to her children, she would have to have lived in America for at least five years after turning 16, according to Charles Kuck, the national president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and an adjunct University of Georgia School of Law professor.

In 1948, Mrs. Nicolopoulos returned to the U.S. with her husband and four children, including Mrs. Davis, then 5. Mrs. Davis attended Augusta public schools, has a driver's license, has a Social Security card that she changed twice after two marriages, has been earning income since 1972 and votes regularly. She works as a packer at Covidien, a medical supply company on Marvin Griffin Road.

All along, it seems, she's been living here on a 59-year-old expired green card.

She said the Social Security representative told her there was no record of her account and that the number on her green card doesn't have enough digits to be valid. Making matters worse, the card -- a warped, laminated relic with a black-and-white picture of Mrs. Davis as a child -- has the wrong name on it, "Athanassia Stavros." That's her Greek first name followed by her father's first name.

"It's like I don't exist," Mrs. Davis said. "She said you need to apply for a Social Security card. I said, 'I've got my card right here! What more can I do?' "

The representative Mrs. Davis said she spoke with did not return a phone message Friday.

Mrs. Davis has been trying to straighten out the mess for eight months. She's simultaneously applying for citizenship and an updated green card, spending $400 so far in fees.

Through phone calls and letters, she's dealing with the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the Social Security Administration and Citizenship and Immigration Services.

"It's really frustrating," Mrs. Davis said. "You run around in circles."

Mr. Kuck, a partner in the Atlanta immigration law firm Kuck Casablanca & Odom, said the problem might boil down to the wrong name on her card. That might be why Social Security couldn't find a record of her. Green cards are supposed to be renewed every 10 years, but even if her card is expired, her status as a permanent resident isn't affected, he said.

Her biggest problem might be that she's been voting, Augusta immigration attorney Paul Balducci said. Voting without citizenship is a deportable offense and could bring the naturalization process to a halt.

"All she can do is claim ignorance and hope they believe her," Mr. Balducci said. "It could be worse. I've got clients in jail trying to stay here. Hers is a bureaucratic problem, not a legal problem."

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

NOT SURE YOU'RE AN AMERICAN?

If you have questions about your citizenship status, you can contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at (800) 375-5283 or set up an appointment online at infopass.uscis.gov.


However, Charles Kuck, the national president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, recommends caution before calling.


You might want to first confer with an immigration attorney to explore other options for verifying citizenship, he said.

Comments (47) Add comment
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nightraider
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nightraider 06/01/08 - 06:32 am
0
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No ss number, does that mean

No ss number, does that mean she never paid social security, article doesn't say. The "card" she has sounds a little fishy tho!

Honden
2
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Honden 06/01/08 - 07:26 am
0
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" has earned an income since

" has earned an income since 1972" Does this mean that her employers have known something that she didn't since then? what about her current employer? I'd like to see a pay stub.

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 06/01/08 - 07:32 am
0
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She has a legitimate ss card

She has a legitimate ss card and number and has been paying in since she started working. It's the name on her green card that put everything in the wrong location and the bureaucrats have a narrow parameter to operate in so all is confusion. What a nightmare.

WHATDIDIDO
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WHATDIDIDO 06/01/08 - 07:33 am
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I thought the article stated

I thought the article stated that she DID have a social security card. I also would like to know if she has been paying into the system, where did this money go?

KSL
131267
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KSL 06/01/08 - 08:01 am
0
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She says she has a Social

She says she has a Social Security Card and that benefits have been paid in for her. It would be interesting to know if she has been receiving the yearly benefit estimations of future retirement benefits. It would be interesting to know where she has been working all of these years and who has been collecting from her salary and supposedly paying in to the government. This is, indeed, an interesting story. But so many pieces of information have been left out. Scenario. give your child a false SS card. She shows that to an employer. The account is paid into. But when it becomes time to collect from that account????? Here is what I know about how the SS systems works. They receive money based on the number it is reported under and they could care less where it is coming from. It's only when you try to collect on that number that it is important to verify who you are. This information comes from personal experience. My number has been used by someone trying to get food stamps. But because I was working and it showed up that I was, I was alerted (back in the 80's). I now have an alert with the Feds on my SS number. Hopefully the idiot trying to use my number has paid in on my behalf.

KSL
131267
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KSL 06/01/08 - 08:03 am
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But I doubt it.

But I doubt it.

bone
23
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bone 06/01/08 - 08:13 am
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bureaucracy inaction

bureaucracy inaction

KSL
131267
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KSL 06/01/08 - 08:13 am
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PT, the article did not say

PT, the article did not say she had a legitimate card. Obviously my thief didn't have a legitimate card. She had a card with a number on it. It is interesting to note that SS numbers are issued based on where you live. The thief trying to use my number was from Edgefield. That's about all DSS would tell me for "privacy" reasons, despite the fact that their applicant was trying to defraud them and me. My card was issued in Georgia when I was a small child and the numbers prove that.

KSL
131267
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KSL 06/01/08 - 08:16 am
0
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No bone, not bureaucracy.

No bone, not bureaucracy. There is a lot of missing information in this story. Fill in the info, then we blame the bureaucracy.

KSL
131267
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KSL 06/01/08 - 08:27 am
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And why has she been living

And why has she been living here for 59 years on an expired green card? Don't get me wrong, I feel sorry for her. But why is our government not tracking down people from other countries who are living here with expired green cards. The last who were in the news big time flew planes into the Twin Towers. I'm not saying that this lady is a terrorist. What I'm saying is that our government is big time falling down on the job of tracking down people with expired green cards and letting know they need to do something to keep from paying into the SS system when they can't benefit from it or they need to go home or become citizens. (Deport potential terrorist.)

KSL
131267
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KSL 06/01/08 - 08:38 am
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By the way, PT. I was 12

By the way, PT. I was 12 years old when I got my first SS card. For children with bank accounts it had become the law. All of my siblings who were younger got out cards then. Do the math on this story. Mrs. Davis, the lady in question, is now 64. Her mother, who was born in the US, left the US after she was 6. According to the article, (I don't know immigration law), her mother would have had to live here 5 years after she turned 16. Long time passed, a marriage and 4 children occurred before the mother returned to the US with the daughter in question, the one with the 59 year old expired green card.

luckie
2
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luckie 06/01/08 - 08:40 am
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The paragraph beginning with

The paragraph beginning with In 1948 says she has had two ss cards that she had changed after two marriages. Her ex-husbands must have really been doing some fraud and forgery and identity theft for the administration to change or give her a new ss number. It seems as though, there would be an audit trail. Someone has been using my number and I need to get mine changed. I heard it was very difficult to do. Does anyone know?

KSL
131267
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KSL 06/01/08 - 08:43 am
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If you want to know why I'm

If you want to know why I'm so vocal on this issue, there are two reasons. One is that on my father' side of the family there are descendant from the Mayflower. On the other side, there are immigrants from Europe in the late 1880's legal, going through Ellis Island immigrants. I'm vested in both sides of this argument.

No_Longer_Amazed
5143
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No_Longer_Amazed 06/01/08 - 08:46 am
0
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I have to withdaw my original

I have to withdaw my original comment. Re-reading the article the mother was born in the US and Mrs. Davis was born overseas. Unless the mother was in the military, the mother would have had to have been unmarried or meet the residency test to pass on American Citizenship to Mrs. Davis. There is no mention if Mrs. Davis' father was an American Citizen, what his age/status was, or if he could have passed on American Citizenship to Mrs. Davis.

KSL
131267
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KSL 06/01/08 - 08:50 am
0
0
tech. If you can verify (and

tech. If you can verify (and the gov't) that it is your number, you don't have to change it. I was told in the 80's that they would put a fraud flag on it. Maybe they have changed since then. But they verified that my number belonged to me and told me I didn't have to worry about someone drawing on my earnings other than me because of the flag alert. The disgusting thing was that when it was reported to DSS that that a potential client of theirs was trying to commit a fraud against the taxpayers of the State of SC, all they wanted to do was to protect the identity of the person. I was given no recourse to do anything about someone trying to use my SS number to get food stamps.

KSL
131267
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KSL 06/01/08 - 08:52 am
0
0
NLA, It was her mother, not

NLA, It was her mother, not the person in question, who was born in VA.

jtr0777
24
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jtr0777 06/01/08 - 08:57 am
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Some of these comments are

Some of these comments are the most absurd statements I've ever heard. I know Ethel Davis personally. I have known her for more than 10 years. This lady is a personal friend of mine, as well as an excellent Christian lady. The happens to be one of the most Godly women that I know. She has always worked very hard for a living. My wife used to work with her, and the company on Marvin Griffin tries to overload them with work, overtime, etc. In fact, not only do I know her, I know her children, her grandchildren, her brother and sister-in-law, etc. The family is a very precious family that I consider highly honored to be able to call them friends. I have seen her go through many trials of a different sort, and she has maintained/kept a Godly attitude throughout the entire situation. I can't believe that this is happening to someone like her, but I would do everything in my power to help her if I can. Maybe we should write our State Senators and Congressmen about these "laws" not being investigated. I think that's why we voted them in office - - to stand up for what is right and "we the people". Maybe we all should pray more and condemn less.

KSL
131267
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KSL 06/01/08 - 08:58 am
0
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It is not a very well written

It is not a very well written nor researched article. The lady in question was not born in the USA. Her mother was years before, but left. Her green card was expired for 59 years, according to the article writer. What more info do you need?

bone
23
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bone 06/01/08 - 08:59 am
0
0
if you are born to a u.s.

if you are born to a u.s. citizen while living abroad don't you usually receive dual citizenship until the age of 18 (or is it 21)? seriously, kathy, this is a mistake the gov't should rectify, not draw out. the lady has a ss card and has been paying into the system; if the gov't wants to revoke her rights as a citizen, they should at least have the decency to give her a refund while they drag this mess out.

KSL
131267
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KSL 06/01/08 - 09:04 am
0
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I don't doubt that she is a

I don't doubt that she is a very nice lady. But there is a lot of information and documentation left out of this article. Like why did her parents not make certain about her citizenship when they brought her to the US? A green card was issued. Why was that not questioned then? If she was the daughter of a legitimate American citizen, why a green card?

KSL
131267
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KSL 06/01/08 - 09:07 am
0
0
I agree with you on the

I agree with you on the refund, if it actually went into an account and they can verify the money. The perpertrator of the fraud against me had a card, as well, bone. Don't you want to know why she had a green card that expired and she never inquired about that? Having a green card alone would cause me to question.

bone
23
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bone 06/01/08 - 09:08 am
0
0
great questions. this article

great questions. this article presents enough info to whet the appetite but not enough to make a definitive judgment. i'll go with my gut instinct on this one: she's a citizen and some ancient bureaucratic bungle is causing this nightmare. i could, of course, be wrong: she may be a greek terrorist plotting to undo our social security system.

KSL
131267
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KSL 06/01/08 - 09:11 am
0
0
She is no Greek terrorist.

She is no Greek terrorist. But her parents made mistakes that now someone is trying to make the governmnent look at fault.

pingputt
0
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pingputt 06/01/08 - 09:19 am
0
0
The American consul in

The American consul in Greece, if requested, could have filled out an American citizen birth certificate for her since her mother was an American. I don't know why that can't be done retroactively if she has her deceased mothers birth certificate or passport.

KSL
131267
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KSL 06/01/08 - 09:25 am
0
0
After all, the government has

After all, the government has been mandated not to profile. So if they don't give her a hard time, how can they give the, well you know who people, other people who have been discovered living here with expired green cards a hard time? It's kind of like my son, who is a white, 30+ blue eyed, brown haired All American athlete type flying down from Atlanta to New Orleans to drive back with his family, who had driven down earlier to visit the other grandmother. He had a one way ticket. He was profiled and checked all over, including his shoes. And if that had happened to someone who looked Mideastern?

KSL
131267
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KSL 06/01/08 - 09:28 am
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0
pingputt, it all boils down

pingputt, it all boils down to the fact that someone is trying to make the US government look bad when clearly the family of this lady or this lady herself has done nothing over the years to insure that everything was in order.

KSL
131267
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KSL 06/01/08 - 09:32 am
0
0
And before anyone jumps on

And before anyone jumps on me, the old excuse: ignorance of the law..........!

bone
23
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bone 06/01/08 - 09:38 am
0
0
we'll just have to agree to

we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one, kathy.

LadyCisback
4
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LadyCisback 06/01/08 - 09:38 am
0
0
don't start jumping into

don't start jumping into conclusions.. There are a lot of local companies here in Augusta, GA right under your noses in which the employees have this glorious mysterious SSN and they are supposedly taking out money and they have the fake immigration ID cards and nobody does anything about it.. So leave this lady alone.. Obviously it was mistake and at least she is trying to do something about it not like others, that run and hide and get better wages and benefits than what you people will make in a lifetime and none of that money stays here in the US!!

cosleia
0
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cosleia 06/01/08 - 09:48 am
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0
I don't know who is

I don't know who is supposedly trying to make the government look bad with this article...I think it's just a "Hey, look what this poor woman's going through" piece. The caption on the second picture even says "Ethel Davis was born in Greece and came to the US when she was a young girl but her parents never had her become a naturalized citizen." Not "The government didn't deport her in time."

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