- Posted September 12, 2012 by
Pago Pago, American Samoa
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Election 2012: Your stories
Battle for Citizenship. Stateless People and U.S. Government
I wrote several articles about statelessness in the United States and I continue to do so because we need to bring the attention of statelessness and their human rights violation to the top authorities in Washington, DC who keep ignoring us and do not provide any assistance or remedies to solve our problem. We are the problems of the United States Government because we are unwanted, invisible and nowhere people who got stuck in this country without having our status legalized.
Stateless people suffer terrible personal consequences. They are being detained for as long as Immigration Authorities feel necessary, they are forced to report to the deportation unit of ICE every three month even though they are not deportable as there is no country in the world that willing to claim them, they have to apply for employment authorization every year, and besides that they are forced to bring any sort of evidence showing that they are cooperating with US Government to locate any country that will be willing to accept them where there is none. The attitude of other foreign nations is that since you are stateless and in the US you are the problem of the US Government.
Statelessness is underlying factor of human rights violation, they are confined within only one territory, they are not allowed to travel, they are denied of any protection since they have no papers at all, they have no country to call home even though they are "unofficial" residents of the United States. Some of those stateless people are registered with Department of Homeland Security but some of them are afraid to come out of the shadows because of indefinite detention and any lack of assistance from the country they live in.
I spent six month in detention center in Houston, TX, and let me tell you that even though they call that "detention", in reality it is a prison. The guards who worked at CAA (Corrections Cooperation of America) were not trained to deal with humans, the way they treated those immigrants there made you feel you were not human at all, you did not belong to this society, you were worse than animal. They called you names, instead of hot shower we were given cold shower, the food served was cold, breakfast started at 5am, lunch at 10am and dinner at 6pm. If you missed your breakfast and lunch because you were tired and wanted some more sleep, you were hungry until 6pm. If you were lucky enough to have someone to send you money, you could buy some food at the commissary once a week. If you wanted to use library, literally you had to beg them to go there because they did not give you enough time to make some research or study your case. There were 8 dorms at CAA, dorms 1 to 6 were in charge of keeping those illegal immigrants who were criminals, those who served their terms in federal prison or county prison, and were handed over to immigration authorities for deportation (illegals including permanent residents with criminal history). Dorms 7 and 8 were for those immigrants who had minor violations such as boarder crossing, overstaying the validity of their visa. According to the rules criminal immigrants and non criminals are not allowed to be mixed with each other, but I have noticed in some cases when dorms 1 to 6 were completely full and they did not have enough room to add additional criminal immigrants, they were accommodated to the dorm 7 or 8 which caused major chaos between those immigrants. Some of them became victims of sexual molestation, some of them were in constant fight, physical fight, and some of them were grouping their own gangs against each other. CAA was not a paradise and was not a great place to be.
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in one of her speech urged countries to analyze and amend the largest cause of statelessness, nationality law but she never mentioned about statelessness in the United States and their human rights violation and denial of their legalization including permanent resident status and citizenship.
Statelessness is the major problem, stateless people are vulnerable, they are easy targets, because if the government of the country they live in for many years refuses to recognize them and treat them unwanted, they seek protection elsewhere, particularly in criminal organization, or terrorist organizations, who provide them with anything they wish to have including "fake" passports to travel freely. That should be a global concern, that should be an alarm for the states to act quickly to resolve the issue of statelessness and stop them from being spacegoats who end up in the hands of those we fight against.
For example, we advocate for human rights protection of stateless Palestinians who were striped from any rights or citizenship in the countries they found themselves in. One example is Saudi Arabia where Palestinians are excluded from obtaining Saudi citizenship because apparently Saudi citizenship is only granted to people of Saudi descents. Because those Palestinians were marginalized and not protected by Saudi law, some of them were forced to support Iraq during the Gulf War. They were desperate. When we keep our eyes open to the human rights violation abroad, we should not keep our eyes closed to the plight and human rights violation of stateless persons in the United States. Because as the major world power we tend to pretend that everything is fine within our country and we do not suffer statelessness issue when clearly the new cases rising up every day.
Other example of statelessness vulnerability and easy targeting is terrorist attack in Mumbai, India in 2008. When we deprive stateless people from any rights to be officially recognized as lawful citizens we force them underground, we turn them into monsters. In some instances stateless people are forced to commit some act against humanity. Terrorist attack in Mumbai, India that killed so many innocent people, locals and foreigners, were blamed on some separatists in India or Pakistan, but none of those two nations wanted to take the responsibility of that act of atrocity performed by stateless individuals. Media prefer to use the term "no-state actors". Since stateless people do not have any connection to the State they live in or any other states, they are easy to be manipulated, and easy to be recruited by some "unwanted" groups. In more clear words, stateless people are not financed, trained or employed by any country. Those stateless people that were forced into terrorism or other criminal activities, with no states that can be blamed for the acts of those people, and those states cannot be pressured to bring those "devils" to justice. Because they do not belong to anybody, to anyone, they have no link between themselves or the nation they live in, or any other nations. They were thrown away, erased from the system. The reason this happens because we allow to create statelessness and do nothing to prevent statelessness, we turn those people into demons and devils because instead of protecting them, giving them rights we abandoning them. And International law does not permit countries to bear the responsibility for the acts of private persons who do not possess any citizenship or nationality.
You can walk on the street without knowing that the person next to you is stateless, he/she basically does not exist. They don't enjoy full rights accorded to you as a citizen. Some of them hide themselves and continue being invisible, some of them become easy targets to be recruited by violent organizations. We have statelessness issue in the United States and we should prevent this disaster from spreading further by finding a legal mechanism to resolve the issue of unwanted, unrecognized residents in our own country before giving advise to other nations to solve statelessness issue abroad. We should ratify UN treaties in regards to statelessness, and implement new laws.
Statelessness does not happen automatically, people were forced to become stateless because those who in charge, the high rank officials, made us to be the way we are. For a long time North America was citied as the continent of immigration, while Europe was citied as a continent of emigration. EU member countries have laws in protection and reduction of statelessness after ratifying UN 1954 and 1961 Conventions but our Government, the Government of the United States continuously refuses to become a signatory member of those conventions. Basically, we allow statelessness to grow as a mushroom cloud within our society.
As a stateless person myself, and I hope other stateless people who live in this country, agree with me, that we must urge United States Government to take this occasion to accede to the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. It's time to put a stop on discrimination policy towards statelessness. We want peace of mind, be able to enjoy the same rights given to citizens, to contribute economically and politically to the country we love so much, to be able to move freely, to travel freely. We do not want to be on an order of supervision for the rest of our life, we do not want to apply for permission to work every year, we want to have legal rights to work, to look for work as any permanent resident or citizen of this country. We already established our permanent residency in the United States, and it's time to provide us with citizenship and stop mentally torturing us. Please, we are begging you. Enough is enough.
We should introduce procedures to identify and protect stateless persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and US territories. Stateless people in the United States are marginalized, and being invisible is the direct consequence of our fear being subjects of discrimination, exclusion, detention and deportation.
Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs from the Department of State, in her speech given on October 25, 2011 in Washington, DC on statelessness said: "Stateless persons typically lack identity documentation....They often can not work legally or travel freely. To try to understand the impact of statelessness better, the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration recently funded a study by Kingston University to examine the cost of statelessness. This study used quantitate and qualitative methods to compare the livelihoods of stateless persons with those of citizens of four countries" (Burma, Bangladesh, particularly). But Ms. Otero excluded the statelessness issue in the United States. Why Department of State, US Congress, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement won't examine the cost of statelessness within the United States? How long we can continue believe that our nation does not contribute to the problem of statelessness? When I wrote letter to the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration about my situation as a stateless person who suffer hardship in the United States by not being legalized in spite of my 16 years residency in this county, I was told to address my issue to the Department of Homeland Security. When I addressed the issue to the DHS I was told to address my issue to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. So, basically, we have created so many departments and none of them willing to solve the issue of stateless persons residing in the United States. This is the mind boggles. Will our Government finally engage with civil society groups who are advocating on behalf of stateless persons in the United States instead of crossing the ocean? Will we finally implement the law that allows stateless persons to become US citizens?
US Government should address the statelessness issue we have within our country as it is the key in the battle to protect our basic human rights, us, unwanted, invisible people without country or nationality, and bring a sustainable end to this disaster.
We, stateless people of the United States of America should get together and take part in peaceful demonstration to demand protection and citizenship from US Government and other basic rights that were taken away from us, and stop our Government from discriminating us. We want to exercise the basic rights associated with citizenship, we don't want to face serious difficulties in doing so. We do not want to be excluded from political processes because we live in limbo, we want to travel freely, not to be afraid to visit places during vacation and holiday and be stranded there because we were not allowed to return back. We don't want to face difficulty in obtaining identity documents or travel documents, or be detained due to our lack of status. Statelessness is a crime, crime against humanity, and we do not wish your children, or your future unborn child, or our next generation to go through all those miseries we are going through now in the civilized, democratic and the most powerful nation in the world.