Taylor Rotary helps youth realize his dream

From the Mayflower pilgrims to Somai refuges, people have flocked to the United States from all corners of the world to be part of its vital democracy. Many of those born in foreign lands set a goal to become citizens of a new country.

One young man -- just 16 years old -- has made his home in Taylor for nearly nine years. To realize his dream, it has taken a bit of help from the Rotary Club of Taylor.

Jake Robert DeLisle will be 17 at the end of September. The high school senior was born just across the river in Windsor, Ontario, Canada -- the son of an American-born father and a Canadian-born mother. He is by benefit of his father's birth a U.S. citizen.

Except Jake has been unable to obtain a Social Security card, Michigan driver's license, insurance or other identity documents because the cost of processing the Certificate of Citizenship has to date been beyond the family's financial means.

Two years ago, Jake's older brother, James, now a U.S. Marine, was able to obtain his certificate. Jake hoped to follow suit.

The Taylor Rotary discovered through the office of U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell that Jake's father is critically ill and his mother is the sole source of income for the family. Jake cannot legally work.

Rotary President Geno Salomone, who is a judge in the 23rd District Court, heard of Jake's plight and the club agreed to cover the cost of the citizenship certificate to the Department of Homeland Security. The Detroit-based U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is being asked to expedite the case through Congressman Dingell's office.

"We are pleased to be able to help this Taylor family," Salomone said.

Jake's entry in the U.S. without formal documentation is not uncommon. Until a few years ago, children of a U.S. citizen who were under the age of 18 were admitted at the Canadian/United State border and instructed to apply for naturalization before the age of 18.

Dingell's office often works with Canadian-born individuals now in their 80s and 90s who have enjoyed voting and Social Security without formal documentation. With the new rules in place, they now have to prove their right to citizenship and obtain the certificate.