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  • Writer's pictureUnited Stateless

Meetings In Washington On The Stateless Protection Act

by Karina Ambartsoumian-Clough, Executive Director, United Stateless

Over the last few weeks, I've been to Washington three times, meeting with legislators. We're building relationships to drum up support for the Stateless Protection Act. This bicameral piece of legislation, reintroduced in March, marks the first piece of U.S. legislation solely focused on granting stateless people our fundamental human right to a nationality. It would end needless hardship related to identity, travel documents, employment barriers, detention, and more.

So, how's it going? 

Well, of course we're optimistic, and at the same time, getting a bill passed is a complicated process. Remember the 1976 cartoon from Schoolhouse Rock called I'm Just A Bill? In it, an anthropomorphic bill sings about his efforts to become a law, to a young child. What the cartoon does not show are the people whose lives are on hold until the bill passes into law. Or the people who support the passage of the bill with their hard work and advocacy. The reality of the Stateless Protection Act is, in fact, very personal and important to us. 

I'm stateless, myself. I co-founded United Stateless with other stateless people in America who want to see our lives move on. Henry Pachnowski was present at our first meetings with Senator Ben Cardin and Representative Jamie Raskin's offices before they introduced the bill. He survived the Nazi Holocaust and statelessness in America, and happens to be one of Senator Cardin's constituents. He wants to see this passed. Miliyon Ethiopis is a co-founder of our organization who ran eight gas stations in the D.C. area, seven days a week, until recently. He's also a survivor of atrocity crimes, and would like to see the bill passed, too. He was in the early meetings with the Senator and Representative, too. Their experiences bring themselves to bear on this legislation. 

Our pro bono counsel Betsy Fisher was also there. And our staff attorney Samantha Sitterley has been involved in getting the bill introduced, too. Martine Kalaw is also a survivor of statelessness. She joined me on a recent trip to Washington where we met with Congresswoman Mazi Horono's staff. She had to give up time from work and invest time in touring the capitol, and I'm immensely grateful. 

Akin Partner Charles W. Johnson IV joined me recently for meetings with Sen. Amy Klobuchar's office, and Congresswoman Victoria Spartz's office. Charles works for a global law firm but has been a keen supporter of United Stateless over recent years. He's been able to introduce us to congresspeople and their staff and those conversations are all much appreciated. 

It's important for us to build relationships about statelessness in Washington. But I've also heard, time and again, that legislators do take notice when they're contacted by constituents. 

That means you can have a serious impact on this process. If you'd like to make sure the act gets passed, simply go to this website to find your congressperson. The site lists their office phone number. Give it a call. When somebody picks up, you can say something like this:

"I'm calling because I wanted to make sure you had heard about the reintroduction of the Stateless Protection Act."

Then, tell them why the Stateless Protection Act matters to YOU. If you'd like to think more about why statelessness is such a key issue for Americans, you can check out the United Stateless website for hundreds of reasons to support the Act!

Thanks for your support. Trying to get a bill passed into law takes a community of people all pulling together and we need each other more than ever to get this done.


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