Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

She's Always Been American; Now It's Official

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

She's Always Been American; Now It's Official

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson

BRUNSWICK | As the Glynn Middle School chorus sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" on Friday, Sandra Michelle McKinney mouthed the words. She knew them all, and why not?

She's been working since she was 15, paying taxes and Social Security and voting since she became eligible. The 44-year-old even went to nursing school on an American Legion Scholarship.

"My whole life, I've been acting like a citizen," the Augusta resident said. Except she wasn't, at least not until Friday, when she took the oath of citizenship in U.S. District Court in Brunswick.

"I found out I wasn't a citizen three years ago," she said.

When asked how she figured it out, McKinney said, "The good old DMV."

After state driver's license requirements got tough to comply with a new federal law, people had to bring two forms or solid identification, an original birth certificate, a Social Security card, etc. When it came time for McKinney to renew her license, her documents came up short.

But wait. Her father was an American, so why wasn't she?

Her American dad and British mother met when he was serving in the U.S. Air Force in England. One thing led to another and, well, you've heard of that BBC show, "Call the Midwife."

Her dad went back to the U.S. with plans for McKinney's English mother to join him later with their child, except love sometimes fades when people are "the Pond" apart. She met another American, fell in love and married him and little 6-month-old Sandra came to America with her mum and stepdad, grew up and lived the American dream until that license thing jarred her into reality.

"I was angry," she said. "I was angry at my parents. I was angry at the system. Why wasn't there a way for me to just be certified as a citizen? There was a way for everybody except people like me, it seemed."

As soon as he learned he was married to an Englishwoman, her husband, Brian, warned her to get it done as soon as possible.

"If you don't take care of this now,'' he said, "it's probably going to rear its ugly head later in your life."

And of course it did. …

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