Florida Man Discovers He’s Not Legally in the U.S. After 60 Years

At 66 years old, Jimmy Klass of Clearwater, Florida, discovered something shocking: despite living in the U.S. for 64 years, he was not legally recognized as an American citizen. This revelation came unexpectedly in 2020 when he applied for Social Security benefits that he had contributed to throughout his working life.

A Lifetime as an American

Klass, who moved to the U.S. from Canada in 1959 at the age of two, had lived a life indistinguishable from that of any American citizen. He went to school, married, raised a family, paid taxes, and voted in elections, surrounded by the symbols of American pride at his home. It was only when Social Security denied his benefits due to a lack of legal residency proof that he realized his true status.

Citizenship Assumptions Upended

Klass was born to a Canadian mother and an American father and had always assumed he held dual citizenship. However, his application for formal status was denied because he couldn’t sufficiently prove his father had lived in the U.S. for ten years before his birth, as required by law. This setback came despite never being questioned about his citizenship when obtaining his Social Security card, driver’s license, or even when he registered to vote.

Navigating Bureaucratic Challenges

The complexity of Klass’s situation reflects broader challenges within the U.S. immigration system, which has historically struggled with consistency and communication between agencies. His case highlights how changes in documentation requirements over the years can impact individuals decades later. According to Indera Demine, an immigration attorney, the discrepancies between different agencies’ requirements have left many in similar predicaments.

The Road Ahead

Despite his contributions to Social Security and a lifetime of participation in American society, Klass faces the possibility of having to leave the U.S., the only home he’s ever known. He has reached out to Senator Marco Rubio’s office for help and hired both an immigration attorney and a genealogist to strengthen his case. Still unresolved, he contemplates returning to Canada, expressing a poignant sense of disappointment as he remarks, “Yep, bye-bye, America.”

This story of Jimmy Klass is a stark reminder of the personal impacts of immigration policies and the often hidden complexities that can define a person’s legal identity and belonging.

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