A 94-year-old man who fought for the U.S. in World War II almost missed his chance to attend a commemoration of the D-Day landing in Normandy when he learned his citizenship paperwork wasn’t in order.
Sherwin Callander was born to an American mother in Canada in 1920, but came to the U.S. at age 3. Under current immigration law, that makes him a citizen. Plus, he served in World War II and worked in the country for years without a problem.
“I went through all my schools saying the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag every morning,” Callander told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “You had to do that when I went to school. And then I joined the Navy. And nobody asked me for proof before until I wanted to go to France.”
Luckily, his congressman came to the rescue.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) helped expedite the paperwork process, and Callander took the oath of citizenship on Monday morning. Right after the naturalization ceremony, he went to the passport office and then hopped on a plane to France that night.
Callander, center, recites the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony with U.S. Army Spc. Gulam Ali, left, originally from India, and U.S. Army Spc. Iddrisu Ibrahim, originally from Ghana, right, on June 2 in Atlanta.
Brooks is less sympathetic to immigrants who entered the country illegally or overstayed a visa. He has fought against a measure introduced by a fellow Republican that would allow young undocumented immigrants to serve in the military and earn a pathway to citizenship in the process.
His communication director, Lauren Vandiver, said in an email to Fusion that the veteran’s case couldn’t be compared to efforts by undocumented immigrants to join the military.
“The vet’s mother was American,” she wrote, “this was an issue of timing to get paperwork.”
Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.