Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

McClellan: A Woman without a Country

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

McClellan: A Woman without a Country

Article excerpt

Richard Christy and Michelle Achey were high school sweethearts in Ohio. They got married. They had their first child, a son, in 1982.

Then Richard joined the Army and was sent to Germany. His wife and son joined him. Richard and Michelle had a daughter in 1985, and another son in 1986. Both kids were born in Germany.

When Michelle's father had a heart attack in January 1987, she and the children returned to the States. Sadly, the marriage was on the rocks, and neither Michelle nor the kids returned to Germany.

They settled in St. Louis.

Now, years later, the middle child, Bryana, is a woman without a country. She will be 30 next month. She can't vote. She can't get a passport. She can't prove citizenship.

For most of her life, she did not realize she had a problem. She got a Social Security card when she was a child. She attended public schools in Kirkwood. She got her first job at a Dairy Queen when she was 16. She paid taxes. She got a drivers license. She even got federal loans to go to school when she graduated from high school in 2002. She's a nurse.

She first realized she had a problem in 2007. That's when she tried to get a birth certificate.

She was born in an Army hospital in Germany. The Army hospital no longer exists. With the Army hospital closed, she tried the National Personnel Records Center. The center had a "Birth Information" document. Her name, date of birth, her parents' names and place of birth USAMEDDAC Bremerhaven, Germany. But no birth certificate. The center directed her to the Passport Services, Correspondence Branch of the State Department. That office couldn't help.

All right. Life without a birth certificate. That's not so bad. But two years ago, when Bryana tried to renew her drivers license, she needed proof of citizenship.

How could she not be a citizen? Her mother and father were citizens. Her brothers are citizens. (Her younger brother was born in a civilian hospital in Germany. He has a birth certificate.)

She needed a certificate of citizenship from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. To obtain a certificate of citizenship, a person has to file Form N-600. …

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