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CAMP CASEY, South Korea — As it stands now, John David Ruiz isn’t a citizen of any country.

John is the newborn son of Camp Casey transition center employee Juanito Ruiz, a former soldier whose application for his son’s passport and record-of-birth abroad was denied because of what the U.S. Embassy in Seoul considers questionable circumstances.

Ruiz said his four previous marriages and his foreign wife’s unexpected pregnancy shouldn’t count against the infant.

“I married badly, so what? Why are we using this against my son?” Ruiz asked. “I have no doubt whatsoever that the child is mine.”

Ruiz said he completed the standard checklist for his son’s documents. An embassy worker then added items to the list, including photos of his wedding to Philippine national Christine Tuazon Ruiz and a DNA paternity test.

“It is not unusual for a consular officer to request additional material to establish a child’s claim to U.S. citizenship,” said embassy spokesman Max Kwak.

“According to U.S. law, the burden of proof to demonstrate physical presence in the U.S. and a blood relationship between parent and child rests with the applicant,” Kwak added via e-mail.

DNA tests may be suggested but never required, Kwak said.

Ruiz, however, said he wasn’t given an alternative. The embassy gave him a list of two places he could go for the DNA test, both of which he said charge about $1,640 at current exchange rates.

Other labs in Seoul told Stars and Stripes they charge as little as $328 for the same test.

Regulations require the DNA test be done at a laboratory that adheres to American Association of Blood Banks quality control standards, Kwak said.

In September, Ruiz took his case to the offices of New Mexico’s U.S. senators, Republican Pete Domenici and Democrat Jeff Bingaman, which then corresponded with Julia Stanley, South Korean Embassy consul general.

“Numerous anomalies and inconsistencies led the interviewers to ask more detailed questions and request more evidence,” Stanley wrote about Ruiz’s application, according to documents Ruiz provided Stripes.

In those documents, Stanley cited as examples Ruiz’s marital history, the baby’s birth six weeks after Ruiz’s marriage and Christine’s brief returns to the Philippines.

“Mrs. Ruiz had unusual travel patterns during her pregnancy, which she could not explain well,” Stanley wrote.

Ruiz said his wife made two short visits to the Philippines before her three-month South Korean visas expired, before they were married. The baby was born in August at a Uijeongbu hospital, which provided a birth certificate.

Ruiz has been separated from his fourth wife since 2003, he said, though he waited to finalize the divorce. In three of his four divorce proceedings, Ruiz was the defendant.

Two of Ruiz’s co-workers wrote letters to the New Mexico senators stating that he dated his current wife for years.

“I didn’t try to hide previous marriages from [embassy] personnel — they had copies of all previous divorce decrees,” he said.

Ruiz is following up with his senators in the hope they will intervene. Otherwise, he said, he may explore legal action but will probably have to get the $1,640 DNA test.

“If the senators are unable to sway the U.S. Embassy, what other solution do I have?” Ruiz said.

Red flags at the embassy

A child born or conceived before a couple marries may indicate paternity fraud, according to State Department regulations used by U.S. Embassy employees when reviewing passport and report of birth abroad applications.

Applicants can also expect further scrutiny when officials suspect the following:

The mother may have slept with other men around the time of conception.The father didn’t have access to the mother about nine months prior to birth.The child shows a normal birth weight despite reports of a premature birth.The child doesn’t look like the father.The birth records have discrepancies.A consular official may then ask for additional records and interview the parents separately.

“Often, in separate interviews, one party will admit that the American citizen is not the father,” the regulation states.

Consular officials may also interview the couple’s friends and family.

The last option stated in the regulation is to “advise blood testing if the couple continues to pursue the claim even though the facts as developed seem to disprove it.”

— Erik Slavin

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