Although Maureen was not able to attend the June 22nd, 2001 Immigration Foundation Awards Gala to accept her award personally, a video tape was especially made for that occasion at the same time Maureen did the interview for American Movies Classics film preservation. Maureen is extremely proud of her citizenship papers because she was the first Irish citizen to gain American citizenship with her true nationality "Irish" on the form and sign those papers without forswearing allegiance to England. Below is a transcsript of her video message to the Immigration Law Foundation.
When I first came to the United States of America to become an American citizen you had to apply for your first papers, your second papers, and your final papers. And the first time I applied, ages went by and I heard nothing. I spoke to my attorney and told him that we had never heard anything from the Immigration Department - my application was lost. So I had to apply again; by this time the first paper, second papers and final paper system was gone it was canceled and done and you applied once and then you had to go and do a history exam and that sort of thing. I did so on January 25, 1946, and I passed and then I went up to a desk with a lady behind it and she said "Put your hand up" and I did and then she said, "Now you're going to forswear allegiance to England, and I said " I'm terribly sorry but I can't forswear and allegiance I don't have." I have no allegiance to England at all, I'm Irish. She said, "Well you better read these papers. So she handed me all these papers that I had filled in and everywhere I had put in former Nationality "Irish," it was crossed out and "England" was printed in. And I told her "I'm terribly sorry, I don't know who corrected these papers but I'm Irish" and I couldn't accept it..." I can't accept it...I'm sorry."
She said "Then you'll have to go to court" And I was sent before a judge in a court room that same day within about half an hour of the incident. You were not allowed to have your lawyer with you. You were only permitted to have your two witnesses who witnessed to your good character, and they went into the court room with me - and I appeared before this very nice looking judge and he wanted to know what the problem was and we discussed history, and we discussed all sorts of things and he said "As far as I'm concerned, you're English." And I said, "No - I'm sorry, cannot accept it - under those circumstances then I can't be an American citizen.
And then he called the clerk of the court and said, "Will you check with Washington and see what they consider her to be." And the clerk came back in said "Washington said she's English." And I said, "Your honor, I'm very sorry but I'm not responsible for your antiquated records in Washington and I said "Thank-you very much but I can't accept citizenship under those conditions and I turned to walk out and and I thought, well, just before I go - you know the Irish, we always have to have to last word, I'll have one more crack at him I thought. And I said, "Your Honor, do you realize what you are trying to do my children and grandchildren?" And he looked at me. I said, "you're trying to take away their right to boast about their wonderful Irish mother and grandmother" and he threw his hands up in the air and said "Get that woman out of here! Give her anything she wants in those papers but just get her out of here!" And I thanked him and I left the court.
This paper was officially granted I think in January, 1946 and it made the newspapers - the story - somebody must have blabbed about it - I didn't - it was so important to me, it just made my heart happy. I didn't do it to get into the newspapers, I was in the newspapers every day (to do with movies) - and it was around June that it hit the newspapers; and the two big newspapers in California - I'm not going to name who they were - said it was a phony publicity stunt and that it never happened. So you know it did happen, there is my citizenship paper and where it says "former nationality" typed in is "Irish" and you can see that English was in there before and it has been erased and then because it is an official legal document - and this is terribly important, it says "I hereby certify that the erasure made on this certificate to former nationality Irish was made before issuance to conform to the petition and it was signed January 25th, 1946 in the District Court of Los Angeles and I can't read the signature but it was a wonderful judge who got sick of me and gave permission.
But the thing that is terribly important, that was the first time in the history of the United States of America that an Irish person was accepted and officially pronounced to be Irish. And so this is a terribly important legal document and I'm very, very proud of it. For an Irish woman to shut up speaking is a very difficult thing because we were born with a gift of the gab and I could tell you stories about Irish immigrants and other immigrants too that I admire who have made wonderful contributions, not just to the United States of America, but to the entire world - as we move around the world maybe one day, please God, we'll all be citizens of the world feel that we are one in the same - that we are all citizens of the world and we can make it the world a more wonderful and better place.
I want to thank you for the wonderful honor you gave me this evening and to congratulate the other recipients of the same award and please God it will be a wonderful world from now on for all of us and that the Foundation will continue its wonderful work with United States Immigrants.
Thank you and good evening.
"I could tell you stories about Irish immigrants and other immigrants too that I admire, who have made wonderful contributions, not just to the United States of America, but to the entire world..."- "One day, please God, we'll all be citizens of the world and feel that we are one in the same - and we can make the world a more wonderful and better place.
I want to thank you for the wonderful honor you gave me this evening and to congratulate the other recipients of the same award and please God it will be a wonderful world from now on for all of us and that the Foundation will continue its wonderful work with United States Immigrants. Thank you and good evening."
June Parker Beck©
My thanks to Andrew