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  • Writer's pictureUnited Stateless

Outcome in Statelessness Case Shows Need For Broader Policy Reform at ICE

  • Until recently ICE had argued for a stateless man’s deportation, but finally relented

  • This is just one case involving statelessness, and there are an estimated 200,000 stateless people in the United States

  • ICE needs to do more to coordinate its approach in line with its leader Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas' commitment to improving the status of stateless people

Miliyon Ethiopis pictured just moments after being granted asylum with his case file.

(Maryland, June 18, 2024 for immediate release)—United Stateless, a national organization led by stateless people, applauds a new immigration court decision in the case of one of its co-founding members, Miliyon Ethiopis, in which Mr. Ethiopis was granted asylum after a long legal battle.

After years of having argued for Mr. Ethiopis’ deportation, ICE agreed to join Mr. Ethiopis on his motion to reopen his deportation order issued more than 20 years ago. By reopening the deportation order, the Board of Immigration Appeals effectively canceled the deportation order and allowed Mr. Ethiopis to pursue asylum, which will provide the stability he deserves and serve the public interest. Today the immigration court granted Mr. Ethiopis’ asylum request. 

Stateless people are those who no State considers as its national under the operation of its law. Stateless individuals often lack passports or other identity documents. They often face challenges in accessing employment and basic services like health care and education. Mr. Ethiopis is just one of an estimated 200,000 stateless people in the United States. United Stateless hopes that ICE will adopt broader policy reform ensuring consistent treatment to protect stateless people. 

The full picture: 

  • In December 2021, Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas announced a commitment for the Department to improve the status of stateless people in the United States. In October 2023, implementing that policy, USCIS amended its Policy Manual, indicating that USCIS will consider stateless people for temporary discretionary relief like deferred action and parole in place.  

  • But the USCIS Policy Manual has its limitations because USCIS and ICE have stated that the policy does not apply to ICE or people under ICE jurisdiction, like those in removal proceedings or under final order of removal. 

  • Despite a commitment on behalf of the entire Department of Homeland Security to address the hardships that stateless people face, to date, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has not taken steps to implement Secretary Mayorkas’ commitment

  • United Stateless, along with 75 other groups advocating for refugees and immigrants, wrote to Secretary Mayorkas on June 3 to address ICE’s failure to address statelessness.

  • The USCIS policy does not create a permanent form of immigration relief for stateless noncitizens in the United States; only Congress can do that. The Stateless Protection Act would address this gap. 

  • The sponsors of the Stateless Protection Act (SPA), including Senators Ben Cardin, Dick Durbin, and Alex Padilla, along with Congressmen Jamie Raskin and Gerry Connolly, have also co-authored a letter to Secretary Mayorkas, applauding the progress made by USCIS in implementing Secretary Mayorkas’ commitment while urging ICE to follow suit.

  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees found that Mr. Ethiopis was stateless in 2017. But ICE’s attorneys were refusing to recognize Mr. Ethiopis’ stateless finding. 

  • Mr. Ethiopis’ attorneys also asked the ICE attorneys to stipulate, or agree, that Mr. Ethiopis is deserving of asylum given threats that await him in Ethiopia. Today ICE stipulated to asylum,  thereby making the decision final. Of course, had ICE stipulated to asylum from the beginning, that would have saved DHS and the immigration court resources.

Mr. Ethiopis said: “Like many stateless people I have been in legal limbo since I arrived in this country, terrified that I would be sent to Ethiopia, where I was tortured, and unable to move on productively with my life. If ICE enacts broader policy changes, which I hope they now do, other stateless people could also clear up their status and move on with their lives. I am grateful to the team of people who supported me beyond words.”

Miliyon, center, with his counsel David Bennion from Free Migration Project (right) and Michelle Mendez from National Immigration Project.

Free Migration Project Executive Director David Bennion and National Immigration Project Director of Legal Resources and Training Michelle Mendez represent Mr. Ethiopis.

Mr. Bennion said: “This was a team effort and while we are glad the court granted Mr. Ethiopis asylum today, there are still more than 200,000 stateless people in the U.S. who may face opposition from ICE. We need permanent systemic changes to ensure nobody suffers the way our client has.”

Karina Ambartsoumian-Clough, Executive Director of United Stateless, said: “While it is a good thing to see ICE paying attention to their boss, Secretary Mayorkas, in this case, it is just one person. Stateless people across the country live in fear of immigration enforcement.  ICE needs to move more quickly to get on the same page with the USCIS guidance on statelessness. This is a human rights issue.” 


To arrange an interview with a stateless person through United Stateless, contact:


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