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Rose finally gets his due

Minnesota Veterans Home Hastings resident Tony Rose takes the oath of allegiance last week at the vets home. The ceremony was held in order for Rose to receive his certificate of citizenship, and end a struggle that started in 2006 to get social security benefits.

After a five-year struggle to get social security and his citizenship straightened out, somehow, Tony Rose is still lighthearted about the whole thing. At a ceremony last week at the Hastings veterans home, Rose was presented with a certificate of citizenship, which was the proof the Social Security Administration needed to grant him the benefits he's been without since 2005.

Whether it's cracking jokes about how the government will probably figure out a way to deport him before giving him the back pay he's owed, or showing the crowd the Mickey Mouse vest he was concealing under a sharp, gray suit, Rose is upbeat that the several-year-long process he's been through is finally close to over.

"It was just a glitch, you know?" he said. "You get mad at the time, but once you're through the whole struggle, it's like, you get out of the briar patch and you're so happy to be out of the briar patch, you're not going to worry about it anymore."

The certificate states that Rose has been a U.S. citizen since April 17, 1951, which was the date he moved from Canada to Detroit, Mich., with his mother. His father was already living in Michigan at the time.

Why then, if he's been a citizen for the past 58 years, did it take so long for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and the Social Security Administration to straighten things out?

The most likely reason, according to Sharon Dooley, director of the St. Paul office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, was that his original immigration file isn't part of their electronic database, which only goes back to 1956.

She said a request was sent to a federal recordkeeping office in Missouri, but that it can take a long time to get the physical file out of storage.

"I know it took a long time, but we're glad it's finally finished," Dooley said.

While the certificate of citizenship Rose received last week isn't a necessary document for immigrants to have, some other agencies require it for certain benefits, such as social security, Dooley said.

"He considers himself a U.S. citizen, and has probably been told he's a U.S. citizen all his life," she said. "I've seen this happen with kids, where they've gone through the whole school system, and then when they come to get their driver's license, or perhaps try to get into college, or in some cases, try to get social security, all of a sudden then they don't have the paperwork they need."

To make it official from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service's standpoint, Rose had to take the oath of allegiance.

"If you're over 14, you have to take oath of allegiance," Dooley said. "That's our procedure."

With the oath having been administered, and the certificate of citizenship in hand, Rose has his proof, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is indeed a U.S. citizen.

Throughout the entire process, Rose's champion has been New York lawyer Stella Mednik, who has worked on Rose's case tirelessly for the past few years, without a fee.

"I don't really think I've got enough words in my vocabulary, and I've got a rather large one, to really cover what she's done," Rose said. "I wish she could have made it. What can you say to a person who's stuck with you? She's what a lawyer is supposed to be."

Rose stands to receive about $50,000 in back pay from social security. When asked what he plans to do with the money, he responded in true Tony-Rose form.

"Ahh ... immigrate," he said with a laugh.