February 6, 2020 – “This report is a foundation,” said Karina Clough, a member of United Stateless, at the launch of CMS’s report on statelessness in the United States. “It validates us; it recognizes us.” Stateless persons living in the United States do not have nationality in any country, and many feel they are living in limbo — without sufficient documentation in any country and no way to regularize their status.

I question my very existence, my very essence of being human. We don’t want to live or die as ghosts.  – Stateless person for the former Soviet Union

Stateless means having no hope, being kind of empty. Because sometimes your body is moving but there is nothing to tell about yourself. – Stateless person from Ethiopa

The new CMS report features interviews with stateless persons and — using a unique methodology — estimates the number of US residents who are potentially stateless or potentially at risk of statelessness. The interviews highlight the many challenges facing stateless persons, and the estimates provide a basis for advocacy and policy on an issue that has long been neglected by government officials.

Lack of federal data and the legal complexity of individual instances of statelessness make it impossible at the current moment to provide accurate estimates of the number of stateless persons in the United States. However, the CMS report identifies over 35 groups of persons with members who are potentially stateless or potentially at risk of statelessness, and it used Census data to find persons who matched these profiles. It also draws upon limited administrative data on refugees and asylum seekers to supplement its estimates of persons who are potentially stateless or potentially at risk of statelessness.

The result is a diverse set of profiles with individuals in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This group includes undocumented persons, as well as refugees and lawful permanent residents. It includes victims of war, ethnic and religious persecution, as well as persons whose country of origin no longer exists.

The CMS report also speaks to the bureaucratic indifference that contributes to the vulnerability and isolation of these populations, and it offers policy recommendations to protect the rights of stateless persons and bring US policy on the stateless into conformity with international law.

“We need to find our friends in Congress,” said Clough. “We need to make this a bipartisan issue.… We need to work with local governments.”