My Political Decision to become a Duel Citizen

I’m going back several years to tell you a story that today, due to the GOP candidate, Donald Trump, resinates again.

After the election of 2000 and 9/11 WTC collapse, I had grown quite cynical and angry about the United States. Fearing that George W. Bush would be re-elected, and my fear was proven by his November 2004 re-election, I embarked on obtaining my Italian citizenship.

Friends asked me why I was doing what I was doing and I responded: I have three reasons,

  1. Because it is truly the only thing I have from my mother and its 30 years after her passing that I should have it.
  2. The anger I feel towards my Country; and a way to show my defiance.
  3. and lastly, because I wanted options of where I could live, if not in the US

I started my search in February by going to the Italian consulate in New York City with my Grandfather’s birth-certificate. How did I get my grand-father’s birth certificate. Some time ago, when I was working at the United Nations in NYC, I had an employee (Frank C.) who was an Italian from Alta Mura, the same town my grandfather was from. He kept telling me that he was going to get my grandfather’s birth certificate when he went back to Italy, for vacation. I did not pay much attention to this, because employees at the UN, were always saying such things for favors. Frank, however, kept his word and on returning from Italy brought me my grandfather’s birth certificate.

At that time, some of my friends at the UN who were Italian citizens, were telling me that I was eligible to become an Italian citizen and that given I was working at the UN, it would be easy plus a benefit to have dual citizenship. I asked around at the Italian consulate but was given the ‘ole heave ho. At that time, I was not angry with my government or President Clinton, who I still believe to be the last president of the free world, until President Obama was elected in 2008, I let the issue drop.

Years later, at the Italian consulate, I presented my grandfather’s birth certificate. They were more approachable this time then earlier. They asked several questions: when was your grandfather naturalized, my mother’s date of birth and was I born after 1949. I was applying through my mother, who was born in the US in 1923. The important thing, was that my grandfather did not naturalized until after my mother’s birth. My being been born after 1949 was a key point. I also knew that if my grandfathers naturalization was after my mother’s birth, I had a good shot at applying for an Italian passport. As explained to me at the consulate, I already was an Italian Citizen as my mother was born to an Italian who had not relinquished his citizenship at the time of her birth. First and foremost, my mother was born an Italian outside of Italy.

Trying to obtain the documents required was a daunting task. However, the internet, has made searching for this information easier. I knew my grandfather came to the US through Ellis Island. I went to the Ellis Island site; became a member and searched the site. I entered my grandfather’s name Michael Perillo and in an instant, saw the date of his arrival and the ship on which he arrived. With this information I went to the National Archives for the Eastern US, which happens to be in NYC, a stones through from my office on Varick Street. Again, I joined the National Archives, paid a nominal fee, filled out a form, and gave it to the librarian. Within 15 minutes, I received my grandfather’s naturalization papers. They were dated 1929 making my application eligible.

I visited the Italian consulate armed with my documentation. I didn’t know that this was only the preliminary information required. Once again meeting with the citizenship staff, I was now informed that indeed I could apply, but needed what seemed like volumes of documents, in their most original version and further verified with a document called an “Apostille”. Making matters somewhat difficult, my grandmother had 3 different versions of her first and last name. Verifying who she was would be crucial. I searched the Ellis Island web site for my grandmother. This did not turn out as easily as my grandfathers. No matter how I spelled her name, or inserted the date, or the ship, I could not find her on any ship.

Somewhat frustrated, I contacted the individual who was responsible for the Ellis Island information. He gave me a wonderful way to search and within a few tries, I found my grandmother. Her name was spelled incorrectly on the manifest, making it impossible to do a direct search. She went from Pasqua Focarazzo, her maiden name, to Penquina Tocarazzo. On the manifest I also found very important and needed information; such as her mothers maiden name and the actual date of her birth.

My grandmother was born in Bari, in a small town named Cole del Palo. Again, back to the internet for a search of towns in Italy, which I found and faxed them the info I needed on my grandmother’s birth. Several weeks passed and I had given up on ever hearing back. A month later, I received a fax, with the exact page from the birth registry in Bari, my grandmother’s registration of birth. Of the many documents I needed, including the long form of my birth, my mothers birth certificate, my mother’s death certificate, my grandparents marriage certificate, which I found in the NYC Municipal Archives, my parents marriage certificate my grandfathers death certificate; my grandmother’s birth register was the last document I needed. Somehow I managed to collect everything and had all the proper stamps and certifications.

I went to the Italian consulate in April, with all the forms required and again met with the citizenship staff. They gave me a file number PERILLO 72315 and told me it would be approximately 3 months before I would hear anything from them. They had to transulate the information and send it to Altamura registering my birth and my mother’s birth in that town.

I waited for what seem to be months. I called and inquired but was told I had to wait. That July I finally received a letter, written in Italian, which I do not speak, read or write, telling me (as a friend transcribed for me) that my birth was recoreded in Altamura and that I could now apply for my passport.

I went to the Consulate, showed them my letter and filled out additional paperwork. I was told to come back in 2 weeks to pick up my passport. Two weeks later I finally took my passport photos at the consulate and received my passport.

What was a long ordeal was now complete and I was a dual citizen.

That November, I went to Italy for the first time as a citizen. So disappointed was I after the re-election of George W. Bush, that I could not spend Thanksgiving at home.

I am an American. I was born in this country in NY City, the same City my grandfather came to, hoping for a better life. The election of 2000 left me despondent with feelings that I had no choice or voice in the governing of my country. My vote mattered to me and the Supreme Court decision in favor of Bush did much to unsettle my beliefs. As bad as the election of 2000 was, 9/11 opened wounds not nearly mended and fueled by the war in Iraq.

I am a citizen of the United States with an understanding of the politics in this Country; I know how things work. I am educated and I can read. I am again, as in 2000, repulsed by the candidacy of Donald Trump. After eight years of the Obama Presidency how can one grapple with such a distasteful situation. My grandparents were immigrants who came to this country for a better life, they were democrats. My father fought in WW 2 and my brother in Vietnam. My parents were democrats, I am a democrat and should Hillary Clinton not be elected, I am thinking this time, I very well may leave to my acquired Country, Italy.