Morris Park resident and 9-11 rescue volunteer Gabriele Pacino will soon obtain his U.S. citizenship after several years of wrangling with the Department of Homeland Security over his eligibility. The news has made Pacino so proud that he is planning to get an American Flag tattoo.
After the September 11th terrorist attacks, Pacino volunteered with search and recovery efforts at Ground Zero, helping to pull victims from the rubble, and later assisted in clean-up efforts. Because of his work, Pacino believes he is now one of thousands who suffer with residual health complications and his doctors claim he has the lungs of a 90-year-old man.
The Department of Homeland Security originally denied Pacino’s citizenship application, saying he had not lived in the United States on a continual basis for more than five years, even though he said he has been here — living in Belmont and Morris Park — since 1972.
“The Department of Homeland Security made a mistake,” Pacino said. “I have been here since 1972. When I came to this country, I was a kid. After six months, I didn’t want to go back to Italy. I wasn’t born here but America gave me the opportunity to lead a better life. I learned a trade and was making good money. Who could want more than that?” Within three years of his volunteer efforts in the rescue and recovery mission, Pacino had come down with a form of cancer and other illnesses and had to stop working as a plumber permanently. But his dream of being an American citizen remained.
After being denied citizenship, in August 2009, upset and frustrated, Pacino contacted Senator Jeff Klein for help. Klein’s office conducted an in-depth review of Pacino’s paperwork and determined he met the criteria to become a U.S. Citizen. Working with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer’s office, Klein requested that Pacino’s paperwork be re-submitted for re-processing
In February, Pacino was called for a U.S. Citizen interview and hearing and passed. He currently awaits the date of his swearing-in ceremony and has asked Klein to personally do the honors.
“Gabriele has done extraordinary work for our country and our community,” Klein said.
“I am proud. Real proud. I am going to get a tattoo with the American flag on it. Senator Klein is the best,” Pacino said.