The following story was written by Beatrice Wyllie and shared as part of the Memory Project.

For sixteen years, I was not aware that I was an illegal alien. In 1946, I was repatriated as an American citizen who lived in Romania. I had an American passport, and then a passport of protection from Switzerland, which was in charge of American citizens during the Nazi occupation. Like every good citizen, I voted every year. I left the country, visited Canada and Mexico, and, whenever someone would ask if I was a citizen, I would say Yes.

In 1963, I decided to go to Europe the following year and applied for my passport. I received a letter from the Immigration Dept asking when I would arrive in U.S. I replied, giving them the year, and then I was asked how I would get there. The Immigration Dept and I started to correspond quite often; finally, I was asked to come to their offices. There, I was taken to a room with a large dossier on the desk. The Immigrations agent and I had quite a discussion. It seems that the very large dossier contained the history of my family, starting with the original person that applied for citizenship, my grandfather. When he became a citizen, his children—my father and aunt–automatically became citizens.

In early 1930, my grandfather decided to go back to Romania, leaving his family in the U.S., and he renounced his American citizenship. Eventually, a Supreme Court case was decided that, when an original citizen renounced his citizenship, his dependents would lose theirs. My aunt and father lived in New York City, probably unaware of their status. By the time my father was a young man and decided to take a trip around the world, a second Supreme Court decision was made which reversed the first decision; now, the only person who would lose citizenship was the person who renounced it.

My father started his journey and, of course, came to Romania, met my mother, they married, and their children automatically became American citizens since my father was an American.

In 1946, my mother, brother and I came to New York City and grew up in Brooklyn. My father had left in 1936. We continued our education, took jobs, and both my brother and I married, We were living the American dream. I thought I was as American as any other was, until I requested a passport; then I found out otherwise. The Immigration agent told me that, since 1948, yet another Supreme Court decision had come down, and we had lost our citizenship two years after coming to the States.

But, talk about luck! When I asked the agent what I could do, he simply told me to apply for citizenship. In 1964, I became an American citizen for the second time in my life and am now the proud owner of my twenty-third passport.

[Sept 8, 2012]