A U.S. citizen who moved to Scotland at the start of the Great Depression said Friday that she could be deported from Britain as an illegal immigrant and was scared of returning to an America she didn't remember.
Marguerite Grimmond, 80, was born in Detroit, but at the age of two she moved to Arbroath in northeast Scotland with her Scottish mother.
In May, she traveled outside of Britain for first time since 1929 on a family vacation to Australia. But when she returned, immigration officials at London's Heathrow Airport said she did not have the necessary permit to remain in Britain, Grimmond said.
"My mother was Scottish, my husband is Scottish and my children are Scottish, so I never even realized I was not," she said. "It's a horrible feeling to think I may be deported."
The Home Office said it could not comment on individual cases.
Grimmond said the immigration officials told her that because she was not a British citizen, she needed to apply to the Home Office for a stamp in her passport indicating she had permission to live in Britain.
Officials gave her permission to stay in Britain for four weeks — until June 20 — and she has applied to become a British citizen at a cost of $1,500.
Now Grimmond and her husband, David, are waiting anxiously at their home in Kirriemuir, Angus, to hear whether her application was successful.
"I don't know anyone in America," she said. "I have no friends or relatives there. and it's a frightening thought to be deported to a country you can't really remember."
David Grimmond said his wife, who had never before traveled outside Britain and did not have a passport, had inquired about getting a British passport to go to Australia. She was told she would have to be naturalized as a British citizen and advised it would be cheaper to get an American passport, which costs $140.
Marguerite Grimmond said no one told her she would need a permit from the Home Office to get back into Britain.
"We still haven't heard if the application for citizenship has been successful, and there is nothing else I can do against a faceless bureaucracy," she said.
Grimmond said she was unsure if she would have to take a new citizenship exam that all naturalized Britons have to take, but said she was confident she could pass.