New Zealand-born veteran faces 3rd denial in his quest for U.S. citizenship

MARION COUNTY, Fla. — An eight-year U.S. Marine Corps veteran is once again facing denial in his quest for citizenship.

Paul Canton has been living in the U.S. for decades, thinking he was a citizen. He even voted in several elections.

He only found out he wasn’t a citizen after he tried to renew his driver’s license in 2019.

READ: Marion County veteran denied citizenship for second time

Canton has been denied citizenship twice. He applied on his own initially, but was rejected for some procedural problems.

Then, an attorney took on his case pro bono. Canton was denied because he was considered a person of low moral character for voting.

His attorney got that fixed, but has now received notice from Immigration Services it plans to deny him for a third time.

READ: ‘I didn’t know if I was going to see my wife and kids again’: U.S. veteran denied citizenship decades after service

“They’ve got their eight years out of me, and now it just seems like they’re trying to come up with reasons why they should deny me citizenship,” Canton said.

Canton, a horse rancher in Ocala, was born in New Zealand and grew up in Australia before moving to the U.S. as a teenager.

When he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, he said the recruiter told him he would automatically earn citizenship with an honorable discharge.

For decades, he believed he was a U.S. citizen, and even voted.

READ: Marion County Marine veteran U.S. citizenship status still in limbo

He married a U.S. citizen. They have legal children, but instead of living the American dream, he has no legal ID, and his family is living in fear.

Even though he enlisted during the Gulf War, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services indicates he wasn’t actually in active duty, or selected reserves during a designated period of hostility.

His attorney, Elizabeth Ricci, said the Marine Corps delayed his service because of his immigration statues.

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“He would have had to do certain drills, he was not able to do those drills, because he had a foreign passport and the Marines didn’t know what to do with him,” she said.

Ricci points out his military records show recruiters knew he was a non-immigrant foreign national here with a passport, and doesn’t think he should have been legally allowed to serve at all.

“Every time we’re there there’s a different reason for denial, it looks like it’s just out to deny me no matter what,” Canton said.

Ricci is reaching out to Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, of Illinois, to see if either will sponsor a special bill to get citizenship for Canton and help other veterans like him.

Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.