A Whole New Asylum Category?

By Don Barnett on October 16, 2013

White House Director of Immigration Reform Esther Olavarria reportedly told an audience at the September 19 Congressional Black Caucus annual conference that S.744 (the Schumer-Rubio amnesty bill) has a number of "important provisions that have stayed under the radar, and we'd actually like to keep them under the radar ... because we want to be able to maintain them as we go through the legislative process."

The elite media, indeed the entire commentariat, is seemingly anxious to keep the whole bill "under the radar".

Chalk up one more provision of the bill not quite ready for prime time news hour discussion: Section 3405 of S.744 creates a new category of individual eligible for conditional and then permanent residency as a result of being identified as a "stateless person present in the United States". There is no need for the individual to establish that he or she fears persecution; it is sufficient to merely declare oneself "stateless".

Asylum has always been available to stateless individuals who manage to get to the U.S. as long as they establish a "well-founded fear" of persecution on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a "particular social group".

Probably less than 1,600 individuals applied for asylum in the U.S. as "stateless" persons between 2005 and 2010. (This figure is the summary of both "defensive" and "affirmative" applications which overlap to some degree.)

The U.N. estimates there are some 12 million stateless persons in the world today. This group includes former Soviet and Yugoslav citizens still in limbo in successor states as well as certain Palestinians, Somalis, Syrians, Royhinga from Burma, and others.

This provision – an agenda item of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the Open Society Justice Initiative, and others in the refugee-resettlement contractor network – is an open invitation to risk illegal entry to the U.S.

There are no estimates of the number of stateless persons currently present in the United States, but it is likely very small. That number will certainly grow quickly if this provision makes it through the "legislative process".