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Sen. Michael Bennet Locates The Only Copy Of Colorado Woman's Immigration Papers -- In A Cave

DENVER (CBS4)- Government red tape can be a hassle but what happened to a scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder is a bureaucratic nightmare. Imma Ferrer applied for citizenship last year only to discover the lone copy of her immigration papers was locked in a cave.

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Imma Ferrer (credit: CBS)

Without the help of Sen. Michael Bennet, the records might still be there.

Ferrer applied for citizenship a year ago, "After the interview, they have 120 days to make a decision. In my case, that hadn't happened."

That's when she filled out a form on Bennet's website asking for help.

"She could not get through the bureaucracy of the immigration service and that's one of the things my office does," said Bennet.

Bennet says the bureaucracy was made worse by COVID, which led to the closure of the federal records centers where immigration histories are stored. One of those centers is in a network of caves miles long beneath Kansas City. Bennet's office discovered that was where Ferrer's records were located - on paper in a cave.

Bennet convinced the agency to make a special trip into the caverns to retrieve Ferrer's file and he delivered her citizenship papers in person this week.

Ferrer and 25 other people from 21 countries became U.S. citizens.

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(credit: CBS)

"America's national motto is E Pluribus Unum - out of many one - that's what this day is really all about," Bennet told them.

Ferrer - who is married to a U-S citizen - has had a green card for years and works as an environmental scientist at CU Boulder. She says she waited to apply for citizenship, ironically, because of all the paperwork.

COVID, she says, gave her time to fill out the forms and, she says, the political climate today gave her motivation. She registered to vote immediately after the naturalization ceremony.

While she came here seeking an employment opportunity, she says she found so much more, "It feels good to be able to say I'm a U.S. citizen now. To live in a democracy, not every country has that."

And no country, Bennet says, has a democracy where the citizenry is so diverse.

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(credit: CBS)

"More than our military, more than our economy, more than our natural beauty or towering skyscrapers, you are what makes America exceptional. I hope you never forget that," he told the newest U.S. citizens.

Bennet says he's now working to break up the logjam for all the others in limbo.

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