- Posted May 8, 2012 by
Pago Pago, American Samoa
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Stateless People of the United States
When Democrats or Republicans try to discuss issue over immigration they are missing one point here. United States of America is a land of immigrants. The United States has been shaped and built by immigrants and will continue to do so. "Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free". This invitation and inscription on the Statue of Liberty testifies to the country's commitment to immigration. We have to know our history before making any judgements. If we continue being anti-immigrants, and fight against immigration, than I would suggest the most critical problem solving solution. Why we just simply give up American citizenship, return this land to native Indian population and return back to the countries where our ancestors came from? How about that? All of us should understand that we are all immigrants in this country no matter how we look at it, either we agree or not.
As far as immigration reform concern we always forget about main issues of this broken policy. It's not only about Mexicans coming here, there are a lot of Europeans who allowed to enter USA on visa waiver program and by overstaying their stay, becoming illegals. And whatever happening in Europe right now with their austerity measures and economic turndown we should expect a lot of those European folks to invade United States. And I have no problem with that as we have a lot of our own citizens, Americans, who leave US for another country where cost of living is less expensive. Statistically most American citizens move to Central and South America including Europe where they also overstaying their stay. So, I don't understand the issue over immigration at all especially when major power countries including United States have signed and ratified United Nations Declaration of Human Rights where article 13 states: "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country". Which means if we signed we have to be obligated to respect the principles of this declaration. I am not talking about open boarders. Not at all. And your home is not where you were born but where you truly believe you belong to. You can be born in America but if you feel with your heart that France is the place for you, I don't see any problem why you can't live there and build your own future.
Furthermore, when we bring such hot topic as immigration we always forget to include stateless people who by not their fault became marginalized in our society and practically don't exist. Without documents you are nobody. Stateless people live at daily risk of human rights infringements. Many are trapped in a nightmarish limbo from which there is currently no escape. And the reason why it's happening because we often reluctant to acknowledge the presence of stateless persons on our territories. More often we count them as undifferentiated aliens if their presence recognized at all. And we have not done anything in order to protect stateless individuals in the United States, or prevent statelessness from happening.
I am one of those stateless tax payer who lived in United States for 16 years, with no criminal background. When I came to the United States I was citizen of U.S.S.R. ( Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) the country that seized to exist and along with that my citizenship. I am not considered as national by any former republics of ex Soviet blocks. When Soviet Union dissolved I became stateless because rules of those 15 newly independent countries don't recognize person outside of their country boarders when they claimed sovereignty. In my case as in the case of other stateless people living in this country, to where on earth can they be deported? Only the ocean an the sky over them or some parts of Arctic and Antarctica are country less. They cannot legally enter another state where they would face the same illegalities, which faces them in the deporting state.
I was apprehended by immigration authorities in 2002 and was placed into INS custody for six month where government tried to deport me to where I had no idea. After realizing I was stateless (and they knew that beforehand) and could not be deported I was released on an order of supervision where I had to report to immigration authorities every three month which I continuously did since 2003 until 2011 where everything turned into deepest nightmare. On December 29,2011 I decided to travel to US territory of American Samoa in South Pacific for New Year holiday. Since I did not have passport, and current US immigration law does not issue travel documents for stateless persons, the only travel document I was able to obtain for my planned trip was the World Passport issued by World Service Authority (Washington, DC) for stateless and refugees as defined by Article 13 of United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights . I specifically asked local immigration authorities if I was allowed to travel to US territory of American Samoa on which I was given a positive answer and was advised to obtain travel permission from American Samoa government since it was territory not a state. Document was issued. But one thing that local authorities including Hawaiian Airlines failed to inform me that American Samoa was not under the jurisdiction of U.S. Immigration law even though it's US territory. We can argue here, but according to my research based on USCIS website, paragraph 215.1 in regards to control of aliens departing the United States, American Samoa is under the US Immigration jurisdiction.The US Department of State does not consider World Passport as a valid travel document, even though there is no such law in our Immigration and Nationality Act that forbids the use of World Passport. This type of passport is not valid for entry into the U.S. Also, during my 4 day visit to American Samoa, I made one day trip to Western Samoa, which apparently is an independent state (which I was not ware of until I got there). I thought that Eastern and Western part of Samoa are the part of the US territory of American Samoa.
So I am stuck in United States territory of American Samoa for already five month now. Hawaiian Airlines refused to board me back on Jan 2,2012 on my scheduled return flight stating that Department of Homeland Security in Honolulu refused them to board me on my flight back as I did not have proper documents. Then I was told that since I left United States mainland I voluntarily self-deported myself. Where and how stateless person can voluntarily deport himself? It does not make sense to me at all. As we say, God is great. I was lucky to get some help from Assistant of Attorney General of American Samoa, Valerie Lowson who was strong advocate in solving my issue and have a humanitarian approach to the fate of stateless person who lived 16 years in USA and because of our broken immigration system having hard time to return back to Los Angeles where he resides. The battle still going on. We still fighting with immigration authorities to grant me permission to return back. Meanwhile I am grateful to local government here who covers my housing and food while we are waiting for an answer from Washington. I have faith, I have hope and believe that God will get me back to my life in Los Angeles, to my job as barista, to my friends and my professional carrier. I came to United States because I believed in the promises this country had to offer. I am a hard working person, educated with good character. And as for many other immigrants who lived and worked in this country for so long and obeyed laws it's hard to be abandoned or break away from the culture and friendship we have carved over years, the country we proudly call home, USA.
Stateless people should not be branded for the rest of their life. We don't have any special status under current US immigration law, and main reason why is because United States never signed or ratified 1954 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, which provides a framework for protection of stateless persons including 1961 United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. If 1954 and 1961 Conventions were adopted by the United States neither I or other stateless people would had to go through this ordeal.
When we talk about comprehensive immigration reform we should not be just talking about foreign students studying in United States and allow them to become citizens or those who were brought to the United States at early age and grown among other Americans. We should also include to that list those immigrants who established themselves in this country, lived and worked for years and have significant ties to this country including stateless people. That I call comprehensive immigration reform.
There is a right to a nationality under international human right law and hence, anyone who does not have a nationality is a victim of human rights violation. Stateless people have an equal right to protection before the law, not to be arbitrarily arrested, subjected to inhumane treatment or torture, denied due process or exiled against their will to some places they don't want to be.
Statelessness is not unsolvable problem. We have to address the status of stateless persons, their human rights and rights to international protection. We should take the phenomenon of statelessness into account when developing our intricate, complex and times confusing policies. We should not be excluded from effective international human rights protection. Most people take passports very much for granted, except those who have ever been without one. The life of stateless persons is one of degradation, exposure to exploitation and fear. Everyone should have the ability to belong, to consider themselves, legally as well as socially, part of a larger community whenever we reside.
We should create awareness within the United States Administration, the Congress and the public about stateless people and the challenges they encounter.
When there is no fear, no afflictions and no worries, that is truly the Divine, heavenly state.