Sunday, September 14, 2008

this makes me seriously angry

Maybe this hits home because Sandra Cooley has cancer (originally breast cancer, metastasized to her lungs, shoulder, hip, liver, adrenal glands and now brain - whew). Maybe it hits home because I have a soft spot for the underdog. Whatever the reason, this piece by Pioneer Press columnist Ruben Rosario in today's paper has me steamed up and wanting to fight for this woman. She has qualified for Social Security benefits but hasn't seen any of the money yet. Why not? Because of "what can only be described in a family newspaper as asinine lunacy because of a decision her dirt-poor parents made six decades ago," as Ruben Rosario puts it.

The Department of Homeland Security is questioning her U.S. citizenship because she hasn't supplied enough documentation to prove she was born of United States residents and has lived here all her life, despite having been born a few miles across the Canadian border. It's a long story ... you'd do well to read it all, but here are some excerpts:
Sandra was born two years after Donald Gibney returned from serving seven years as a mechanic machinist on various Navy submarines that saw combat during World War II. One of the subs was the USS Bluegill.

The total bill for the seven-day stay at the hospital was little more than $58 and change. In those days, $3 — a substantial sum for such a family — would enable hospital officials to convert Sandra Cooley's birth certificate to reflect that she was the child of a U.S.-born citizen.

Her financially strapped parents decided not to pay and took their newborn home. Four other children — two before Sandra Cooley and two after — would be born in similar fashion, driven to the same Canadian hospital. Over the years, all but Sandra Cooley were able, without much problem, to successfully have their citizenship status changed.

But as Sandra's husband, Bill, notes, those approvals took place before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"I think that's what is going on here,'' he said.
• • •
A letter dated July 18 asked the couple to submit "a clear and legible copy of your father's Form DD-214. Discharge and Separation documents.''

The agency also noted that it needed evidence under Immigration and Naturalization Act Section 301 to prove her father was a U.S. resident at least 10 years before her birth.

They sent relatives' documents, including her late father's birth certificate, military records and a 1972 affidavit signed by him and properly notarized saying he was born and lived here.

Not good enough, the agency wrote back July 29.

It seems the family has not submitted enough proof.

"The Service notes you previously submitted copies of your grammar school report cards as evidence of your continued residency in the Untied [sic] States,'' the July 29 letter to the Cooleys states. "While noted, these documents do not establish 2 years of continued physical presence between the ages of 14 and 28.''

Short of the seven days she spent as a newborn at the Canadian hospital, Cooley has lived here all this time.

Not good enough.

The family also was told in one of the letters that the agency still needs proof not only that Sandra Cooley's father was a U.S. resident 10 years before her birth but also that he was 12 or older before that time.
And on it goes ... it is the most amazing ridiculous, unfair example of government bureaucracy I have seen in a long time. Is this woman a security threat to the United States? Is she a person who doesn't deserve to get Social Security benefits? Is she trying to milk the system for some selfish, personal gain? No, no and no.

Surely there must be something we can do to help her. I think it would be helpful if our congressional representatives from Minnesota got involved; so, to that effect, here is some information on how to contact Sen. Norm Coleman (click here), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (click here), and Rep. John Kline (click here), who represents the district where the family lives.

And while I'm not going to post Bill and Sandra Cooley's address here, I'll note that you can look it up on, under William Cooley of Waconia, Minnesota ... if you feel moved to help them. I know I do.


liz said...

Well, that is infuriating, to say the least. A good friend of mine from law school is Amy Klobuchar's legislative assistant, so I feel sure a letter from me (and from my friends!) would be noticed. I'll get on it! If you want to, we could send ours together. Let's chat...

otrey3 said...

There was an MPR story about this sort of thing. It's INSANE. Thanks for bringing it to my attention so I can help somehow.

--Laura S.

Anonymous said...

Grrrr, I am all steamed up as well now. Wish I was in MN as well ... think a letter from a resident of a diff. state would make a difference? I will surely look into it!
-Heather H / VA

Anonymous said...

Em, all I can say is that getting Social Security, if you have cancer, is ridiculously difficult. You could be dog sick from chemo, expected to be sick for a long time, out of work, out of health insurance, but NO! You have to PROVE that you'll continue to be sick for 2 years (or something ridiculous like that). Okay, even if you do get better before two years, and can return to work, what about all the wages you lost while sick? As if it takes up to two years' lost wages to break you.

It wouldn't surprise me if that hulla-balloo about Ms. Cooley "not being a US citizen" is a back-handed way of avoiding having to pay SS to one more person, even if her cancer has metastisized...

I saw a bumper sticker recently, that said the following: "Republican policy on healthcare is 'Don't get sick.'" Pretty true.

- Susanne

Stephen said...

But Sue, she's already been approved for the Social Security payments.

Anonymous said...

I've been a quiet lurker since reading your articles in the Catholic Spirit. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your beautiful family. I'm not sure if you saw the update in the paper, but Sen. Coleman got involved and Sandra Cooley's citizenship has been established. It's infuriating that she had to waste time dealing with such a ridiculous situation, but I'm relieved to read that it's been resolved.

Emilie said...

Thank you, Erin - I posted an update (which I'm sure you've seen by now).