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Cancer Advocacy Project

Cases & Credits

A cancer patient whose American citizenship was called into question while pursuing public assistance

Ms. A., a middle-aged woman unable to work due to side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for breast cancer, was forced to seek public assistance and food stamps only to be denied due to questions about her citizenship status. Born in Italy to an American mother and an Italian father (who eventually became a naturalized U.S. citizen), Ms. A. had always believed herself to be an American citizen, and even had a Social Security number.

At a time when she needed all her strength to battle a life-threatening illness, Ms. A. found herself tackling a major setback. She turned to the Cancer Advocacy Project and, after six months of legal research, the issue was uncovered: an old immigration statute, long ago repealed, which stated that an American woman who married a foreign national had automatically renounced her citizenship. Had it not been for the dedicated investigations of project staff, Ms. A. may never have resolved the issue of her citizenship or received the benefits she needed.