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Thursday 18 September 2014

After 90 years as an illegal in US, Josephine gets her green card

Allison Bray and John Breslin

Published 28/12/2012 | 05:00

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Josephine Stout with great-granddaughter Jolisa Stidhum at home in Chicago

IT'S taken 90 years since she was born in a poorhouse in Co Limerick for a woman dubbed America's oldest illegal immigrant to get her Irish passport.

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And it will be a few more months before Josephine Stout will finally be declared a US citizen, entitling her to a pension and other benefits.

Despite having lived in America for most of her life, since she arrived on the RMS Franconia in 1923, the great-grandmother was declared an undocumented alien in 1999 when she tried to claim state aid to help raise her seven grandchildren who were left orphaned when her daughter was stabbed to death by a robber over $20.

Even though she has never considered herself Irish, noting "I don't even have an accent", she didn't officially exist as an American when officials in Chicago insisted that she prove her citizenship in order to qualify for benefits.

But she had no birth certificate or passport when she arrived on an immigrant ship from Ireland with her parents who had 12 other children.

She never gave the matter much thought until 1999 when she was nearing the age of 70 and needed assistance to raise her grandchildren.

For 12 years Mrs Stout managed to eke out a meagre living through odd jobs. But her life was hard and marked by tragedy. Her husband died in 1996 and her son Thomas was stabbed to death with his girlfriend in 1985. Her only surviving child, Rosemary, died of cancer in 2009.

A Catholic charity referred her case to the Chicago Irish Immigrant Support Centre, which alerted the Irish Consulate. Through them they tracked down her birth certificate, it was reported on website irishcentral.com and in the ' Chicago Tribune'.

The document in turn allowed her to receive her Irish passport and eventually her American green card in September 2011 which was backdated to November 1, 1923.

She has been promised that her case for American citizenship will now be fast-tracked.

Irish Independent

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