Statelessness in the USA

video source: UNHCR

" Statelessness is...the total destruction of the individual's status in organized society. It is a form of punishment more primitive than torture, for it destroys for the individual the political existence that was centuries in the development."

 

- US Supreme Court  in Trop v. Dulles

The United States Congress has never passed a law specifically on statelessness. In 2013, the US government came close to passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Reform would have included the following provisions on stateless people:

"(Sec. 3405) Authorizes: (1) the Secretary to designate specific groups of individuals as stateless persons, (2) the Secretary or the Attorney General to provide conditional lawful status to a qualifying stateless person who is otherwise inadmissible or deportable, and (3) the Secretary or the Attorney General to adjust such person to lawful permanent resident status after one year in conditional lawful status.
Sets forth protections for stateless persons in the United States, including work and travel authorizations."

Despite the lack of a statute, stateless people are currently protected under US law in a number of ways. First, stateless people are assured basic human rights at all times while in the United States as guaranteed by international law. More on the human rights of stateless people under international law can be found here and here.

Like undocumented people, stateless people are also entitled to basic rights under the US Constitution. For example, you are entitled to due process of law, just like US citizens. These rights protect you from unlawful activity by the police and give you some access to the courts. You can read more about your rights at the ACLU site here.

As well, there are many court cases that may be of assistance to stateless people. Trop v. Dulles, quoted above, held that denaturalization is cruel and unusual punishment, implying that the US Supreme Court considers statelessness to be a human rights violation. 

In Zadvydas v. Davis, the Supreme Court held that stateless people who cannot be returned to any other country cannot be held in detention indefinitely.

Some stateless people may be eligible for asylum, DACA, withholding of removal, or other programs. Read more from UNHCR here.