An elderly Irishwoman is finally a legal resident of the US, nearly 90 years after she arrived on a boat from Ireland.
Now Josephine Stout, whose life has been pockmarked by tragedy, including the violent deaths of two of her children, is waiting to become a citizen.
Stout, 90, was just a year and a half old when she left Ireland with her parents in 1923.
It never occurred to her that she was anything other than a fully fledged US citizen — until 1999, when she applied for benefits and was told she needed proof she was a legal resident or a citizen.
At the time, aged in her mid-70s, she was the legal guardian of her seven grandchildren, whose mother, Josephine’s daughter, was stabbed to death for $20 on Mother’s Day 1992. Deborah Stout, a single mother of seven children, aged one to 12 years, left her apartment on Chicago’s southside and was stabbed 38 times by a mugger.
“That night I ran and got the children, and I promised to keep them together. My daughter had been getting relief checks and I sent them back because I didn’t want nobody to think I had my grandchildren just for the money.”
Josephine, then aged 70, won custody of her grandchildren.
But it wasn’t her first loss to knife crime. Her son, Thomas, was killed in 1985, stabbed to death along with his girlfriend.
Josephine’s husband died in 1996 and, by 1999, Josephine needed help and applied for assistance. But she was stunned when told she needed proof of citizenship or legal residency.
“A new lady had my case and she said there’s no proof you’re a US citizen,” Josephine told the Chicago Tribune. “I said: ‘Proof? What proof?’ And she kept saying: ‘You need proof or we’ve got to cut you off.’” Josephine had none.
She needed her birth cert and ship manifest to show she entered the US legally. But Josephine had no idea where she was born, what ship she travelled on, or when.
In 2008, the Chicago Irish Immigrant Support group got involved and it took two years to track down her birth certificate. She was born in a poorhouse in Limerick in Mar 1922 and travelled to the US the following year on the RMS Franconia.
In early 2011, the birth certificate and a copy of the ship manifest were handed over to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
She also got an Irish passport but is waiting to become a US citizen, which is expected to happen in 2013.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved