The Center for Migration Studies to Release New Study on the Challenges Facing Stateless Persons in the United States


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Center for Migration Studies to Release New Study on the Challenges Facing Stateless Persons

New York, NY – On Thursday, January 23 the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) will release a report on statelessness in the United States; that is persons living in the United States who do not have nationality in any country. The report features interviews with stateless persons, which highlight the many challenges they face, and — using a unique methodology — estimates the number of US residents who are potentially stateless or potentially at risk of statelessness.

“This report, which is based on more than two years of research and engagement with stateless persons and those serving the stateless, spotlights a problem previously considered too small to merit serious policy attention,” said CMS Executive Director Donald Kerwin. “It illustrates instead the urgent need to address this problem in ways that honor international law and our nation’s best traditions.”

Many stateless persons live in limbo — without sufficient documentation in any country and no way to regularize their status. Others are refugees or lawful permanent residents on a path to citizenship, but naturalization is not guaranteed. Ethnic and religious persecution, war, and the dissolution of states have left many without the documentation they need to maximize their employment prospects, travel freely, and open bank accounts.

Interviewees for the report emphasized the psychological stress, stigma, and onerous reporting requirements of being stateless. As one interviewee for the report said, “I can’t tell anybody, I have to live a double life. I have to think about every word I say, who I say it to and what I say, and remember what I said before so they will not think that I’m some kind of liar.”

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.  Unsurprisingly, given the immense obstacles facing stateless persons, the report found that individuals fitting these profiles participate in the labor force at relatively low rates, are more likely to be unemployed than the overall population, and many work in less skilled occupations.

The report makes a series of policy recommendations to mitigate these problems, including bringing US policy on the stateless into conformity with international law, creating a designated path to citizenship for stateless persons, and providing documentation that would allow this population to travel internationally.

In conjunction with the report release, CMS will host an event with the report’s authors and experts, practitioners and advocates for stateless persons. To sign up for the event visit:

A copy of the full report will be available on the event webpage at 5PM on Thursday, January 23, 2020.

For media requests, please contact Emma Winters, CMS Communications Coordinator, at