REDDING, Calif. — The citizenship of a white-haired convalescent home resident here was being questioned during the final weeks of 1987, 75 years after the woman emigrated to the United States from Poland.
Stefania Ludwika Babinski's legal residency was questioned by state social workers who have been unable to find her records in the computers of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Without proof of citizenship, the 94-year-old matriarch of five generations of Polish-Americans could lose the Medi-Cal benefits that have paid her bills at the Crestwood Convalescent Hospital for seven years.
Babinski's daughter, Rose Potemko, said she would try to explain the unusual situation to her mother during a New Year's visit.
'Branded an Illegal'
"She doesn't know she was branded an illegal alien," Potemko said. "I'm going to try and tell her little bits and pieces of what's going on. She'll probably think it's funny."
Potemko said she learned about the problem three months ago from social workers who are required to periodically verify the residency status of Medi-Cal recipients.
Potemko said she has spent most of her free time since then calling government agencies to obtain copies of documents.
"I have a whole tablet filled with phone numbers you wouldn't believe," Potemko said. "I learned a lot. Instead of going to the little people, you should go right to the top."
For Potemko, the top was INS Western Regional Commissioner Harold Ezell.
She complained to him in early December about the "horrible experience" she had in trying to get help from INS officials at a regional office in Redding.
On Dec. 21, Dayva Steward, an assistant to Ezell, called Potemko with good news--the agency had located a ship's manifest at a St. Albans, Vt., records center listing Babinski as a passenger when the ship docked on the East Coast in 1912.
Search Will Continue
While that manifest could be used to prove residency, which is enough to receive Medi-Cal payments, it would not be sufficient for proof of citizenship. So the search for Babinski's records will continue.
Potemko's daughter, Shirley Steins, said INS officials had promised the family that they would continue to do what they could to help prove Babinski is a U.S. citizen.