For more than two decades, Sigifredo Saldana Iracheta insisted he was a United States (US) citizen, repeatedly explaining to immigration officials that he was born to an American father and a Mexican mother in a city just south of the Texas border.
Year after year, the federal government rejected his claims, deporting him at least four times and at one point detaining him for nearly two years as he sought permission to join his wife and three children in South Texas.
In rejecting Saldana's bid for citizenship, the government sought to apply an old law that cited Article 314 of the Mexican Constitution, which supposedly dealt with legitimising out-of-wedlock births. But there was a problem: The Mexican Constitution has no such article.
The error appears to have originated in 1978, and it's been repeated ever since, frustrating an untold number of people who are legally entitled to US citizenship but couldn't get it.
"What this looks like is nobody's ever checked it out. And it is shocking," said Matthew Hoppock, a Kansas City attorney who specialises in federal appeals related to immigration issues.
Saldana's case was finally resolved earlier this month, when the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the government's explanation of a "typo" and ruled that he had been a citizen since birth. The error, the court said, had been "perpetuated and uncorrected" by the Department of Homeland Security.
For the 49-year-old labourer and sometime carpenter, the September 11 decision ended a grueling and costly ordeal.