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By Samuel Burke & Lucky Gold, CNN
In the movie "The Terminal," actor Tom Hanks plays a man who suddenly finds himself stateless when his country ceases to exist. New York’s JFK Airport becomes his only home.
That movie was loosely based on a true story, but for Mikhail Sebastian being stateless is a dilemma that is all too real.
Sebastian is stateless. He is an ethnic Armenian born in Azerbaijan in what was the Soviet Union. He was forced to flee when the Soviet bloc began to crumble in the 1990s. He tried to take refuge in Armenia but eventually wound up in the newly independent nation of Turkmenistan. But Sebastian is gay and homosexuality is illegal there.
So once again, he had to search for a home. He came to the United States and was allowed to stay as a “stateless person.” There was only one catch: Since he still held the passport from the Soviet Union, a place that no longer existed, he could not travel outside the United States – a tough reality for a man who loves to travel. So Sebastian set out from his home in Los Angeles to too many parts of the United States, including the American territories of Guam and Puerto Rico.
Last December, he was allowed to fly to American Samoa – a U.S. territory in the South Pacific – for a brief vacation.
But while Sebastian was there, he took a short side trip to Western Samoa, not realizing that it is a separate and independent nation. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deemed that self-deportation and so for the past year, Sebastian's been trapped in limbo, unable to leave American Samoa and return to the United States.
Sebastian says his only wish this Christmas is to get back home to Los Angeles.
We let other people in the US with murkier backgrounds. Let the guy come home to LA.
This guy sounds like some one who does not respect the law. Being a frequent traveler, my guess is he knew Western Samoa is a different country, but was hoping to get away by pleading ignorance. Now, who is the IDIOT buddy?
I think we need to take care of our own marine stuck in a Mexican hell hole FIRST!
No, he went to a very unstable place, just over the summer US diplomats were shot at while they were on the highway heading to the airport. You just cant go some place with little to no respect for how the countries security is and how your particular nation is regarded in that region. Americans really need to learn just because we have laws and law enforcement that for the majority works to keep the peace other nations are net set up that way. Even at that you would think with the drug cartels kidnapping and killing anyone who looks like they could have money his brain would have said hey lets go visit Spain or some other country with less life threatening problems. So no he is in that same boat as that doctor who went to pakistan and asked for Obama to drop everything and come save him.
WHy cant we do both at the same time? This one takes a 5 second procedural rule change.Getting our marine out of prison is a bit harder. Mind you I definitely agree we need to get him out ASAP. I am just saying we can do both.
He is not an American, let him rot. Our government has enough to do with out expending our hard earned money on someone who is stateless...or is he? He choose to leave his country, it is his issue.
American citizen: You would not do well as a Canadian citizen.
Let it be known that American Citizen does not speak for the vast majority of Amircans. He only speaks for the racist, and the severly mentally challenged, also known as racists.
Canada: He doesnt do well as an American citizen!!!
Let it be known that Brad is also a racist and must also be a specialist in the mental health field since he was able to determine that someone is mentally challenged based on a paragraph posted on the internet. Thanks Brad, without you, none of us would have known that the poster has some issues he or she needs to work out.
The U.S., the strongest nation in the world, unable to do two simple things at once...
Right – because, we, being a country of 300M+ people, couldn't possibly do *two* things at the same time. Yes, yes, lets be sure that we don't try to solve two problems in parallel...
Interesting. It does a bit cliche. You would think that officials would be able to realize the absurdity of the situation and amend it.
II take it you've never met any ICE agents. They pride themselves on being unimaginative, unthinking, and inflexible. Their role models are Vogons.
Nope. I'm safely in Africa, so ICE can't touch me. Until I go back to the US, of course. I suppose my collection of machetes will have to stay...
Kudos for bringing Vogons into a discussion on Beuracracy
Officials realizing the absurdity of a situation and amending it????? How goes the work to avoid the Fiscal Cliff?
Umm this takes ten seconds, do you want them to skip breakfast. And btw you dont seem to be doing much about the iscal cliff either. Its clear they are waiting for the last minute for the fiscal cliff deal because they can get more concessions.
Good point Vicki, been watching the deficit unfold over the last 10 years in the US and just cannot understand how a country like the US can have such a childish bunch of politicians. Just proves they are in it for themselves, not the good of the country as a whole.
we should put all gay people on a remote island and unable to leave
Which century are you living in please?
century of the troll
Sounds like you have dreams for an exotic vacation.
@electricretard, no you are the one that needs to go to the island.
You are a real "retard" no more to be said to you!
they did...its called manhattan
ROFLMAO. That's pretty dang funny! AND TRUE!
We'll make sure you are the first in line.
OH MY GOODNESS! I cannot believe that in this day and age you would dare to even voice that opinion. They are people like you (?) and I... Perhaps you are the one who should be put on the island and left there to rot!
Give me a break. Everyone who travels from American Samoa to Western (actually 'Independant') Samoa know that they are traveling to another country. This is like saying, "I didn't know I was traveling out of the United States when I visited Vancouver".
That guy is an idiot. He had something good and he squandered it by intentionally skirting the system.
Really? He did it intentionally and knew this would happen? That's a bit of a stretch. He obviously thought he would be let back in. He probably didnt think it would be a big deal. Stop being a mean jerk. He probably contributes to society more than you and is definitely a nicer guy, so on that basis alone he should be let back in.
And just what is his contribution to society? Is he working? paying taxes?
The article says he traveled to Guam and Puerto Rico, now Somoa. Who is paying for all that? He should be thankful that the United States was willing to take him in at all. Now he thinks he can flaunt the system and do what he wants. His immigration problems are costing the American taxpayer. Let him back in BUT he should have to pay all of that back to the US government before he goes on another vacation.
@twinmom Did the article suggest that he WASN'T working or paying taxes? Sounds to me as if you are simply assuming he is freeloading. What conspiracy can you dream up that would have US taxpayers paying for all of his trips?
You know darn well he is probably paying for these trips himself. Why do you insist on making yourself appear so stupid?
I wonder...are YOU working or paying taxes? What is YOUR contribution to society? And by "contributing to society" I DON'T mean getting knocked up and pushing out babies, twins or otherwise.
Hey I went to Vancouver and didn't think I was leaving the US. And I wasn't. Never left Washington.
I always found that fairly unimaginative. now, I don't know which one stole it, But I can see it now. "Hey what'd they call that city over there? Vancouver? sounds good, lets do it. "
There was only one catch: Since he still held the passport from the Soviet Union, a place that no longer existed, he could not travel outside the United States --But he was able to leave the US...this makes no sense.
Traveling from the US mainland to American Samoa, probably through Hawaii, one never actually sets foot on foreign soil, so you aren't "leaving the country" in a legal sense. But then you step into Western Samoa, which IS a foreign country and the fun begins.
Dumb move on his part. He flunked the live in the US test. Bzzzzzt. Next.
@cheese I think his point was that, since the only passport he has is for a non-existent country, one might assume the reason he couldn't leave the US is that he didn't have the papers necessary to _enter_ another country. But, he somehow was able to. It's not clear why he can't come back – the US already allowed him in once as a "stateless" person, according to the article, and that status apparently hasn't changed.
Wasn't this a Fraser episode?
It's Road Warrior!
Bureocratic limbo at it's worst. When rules are enforced without any flexibility, people get trampled. For goodness sake, let this guy return home.
Oh man, this is too much! Let this guy make his way back to Los Angeles– it's terrifying to be gay in American Samoa, too. Very, very religious and insulated people. Hang in there, Mikhail. As far as the U.S. government goes, do the right thing. This isn't a precedent-setting matter.
Um, stateless and without a passport I'd be extra careful where I'm going, and I'd read up about the places I'm about to visit. I'm fairly certain a bit of reading could have prevented this. Nevertheless he should be allowed to return home. Show some holiday spirit.
there ya go! that's the spirit!
How someone would know the difference between Samoa and American Samoa when those people share the same language, same tradition and the same culture? They only separated between each other by 20 minutes plane ride. Samoans are the same nation, same people. Samoans travel between two islands like domestic trip. When you purchase an airline ticket from Polynesian Airlines, agents do not ask for your passport at all, they only ask for your first and last name. If someone does not know about those two islands they only way to realize you are on independent nation's soil is when you arrive to Samoa (it used to call Western Samoa, it is Samoa now). Locals in American Samoa do not ever mention other Samoa as an independent nation. If you ask locals what else to see around the island they would recommend you to visit Apia (which is capital of Samoa), meaning the name Samoa would never be mentioned. But for someone to compare USA and Canada is total absurd. Secondly, Hawaiian Airlines has to provide proper information to people traveling to American Samoa. Some agents state that flight from USA to American Samoa is domestic flight and some say that it is an international flight.
You are entirely uninformed and have clearly not made the short hop from American to Independent or back.
These are two different countries with passport and immigration offices on both sides. And yes, you have to show your passport.
It is so frustrating when people comment on things they really know nothing about.
You're right, it is frusturating when people comment on things they really know nothing about, so stop posting.
Actually, Oscar sounds like he has good knowledge of the process and Voice of Reason comes off sounding like Voice of Troll. It's easy to spot the genuinely uninformed one here.
This is what happens when a country has a lot of stupid RULES and there are no PEOPLE to talk to. The people in charge simply defer to the rules and then at 6:00 pm go home, eat dinner, watch the news, and wonder what is wrong with the world.
Whenever people who work for government do anything that is not strictly backed up by laws & rules they get fired, at least yelled at & sued. That is why they don't bother. It always bites them when they try to help. Any questions?
I hope he stuck there forever.
I bet the Marine would do better if HE said he was gay.
Deport the Immigration Morons back to Dumbazzistan where they belong. I hope that somebody like the ACLU or Amnesty takes up his case and sues.
Why not send him back to Russia.. what the deuce
They don't send him "back to Russia" because he's not from Russia. Read the article for God's sake.
Too difficult to read the article. It contains a lot of big words with syllables in them. Much easier for Mongo to punch horse and equate Russia with Soviet Union.
Hay, you can come to San Francisco. No problem. You will feel right at home. Seriously!
Seems to me that someone should have been applying for naturalization instead of messing around in distant corners. Even if he, for whatever reason, didn't necessarily plan on being a US citizen, he would have US agencies and embassies to potentially turn to when stranded on friendly foreign soils. This is not even to mention that as a naturalized citizen he could then apply for passport giving him opportunities to travel outside the USA and its territories. I, however, must concede that I do not know how difficult naturalization here is but still...
Wait. How exactly does this work? I too am an ethnic Armenian born in Azerbaijan. Left in 1990 with a Soviet Union passport. But I couldn't just "stay", at least I didn't know that I could. Wish I knew that I didn't have to go through all the insanity of immigration. Although, frankly, I sleep much better being a citizen of this country rather than a "stateless" person.
So how long have you worked for the KGB? haha, jk, welcome eh
so he is stateless, no taxes, no gov't, nobody bullying him around like the good ole U.S would do and seems to be already doing it. I would just stay on the Island. I see no problem here. In fact I think he should renounce his citizenship, start his own gov't with no taxes, become so powerful, you'll make the black pope look like fool. I will be the 1st one to mover there to help him out.
he can stay at my place in LA....
This guy is stuck in tropical paradise and wants to come back to this f'up country?
The last time I looked at pictures of the earth from space, their were no lines on it.
I read all the posts!,,,!,,,!,, I'm not going anywhere
To hell with him.
As soon as our president or state department lift a finger to get the doctor that helped us get Bin laden out of jail, this guy deserves some help.
I think it's perfectly understandable that a non-citizen (or even a citizen!) fails to understand that Western Samoa is a separate country from American Samoa. Hell, I didn't know that! Just waive the rule on a one-time basis, let him back in, and move on.
I think it's perfectly understandable that a non-citizen (or even a citizen!) fails to understand that Western Samoa is a separate country from American Samoa|
You may be surprised to find that West Virginia is a separate state from Virginia, as well...
There is no mistaking it when you are in Samoa–Fa'a Samoa only goes so far, the Western and American Samoans are each very proud of their (separate) governments, and while they share culture and history as Samoans, the American Samoans kind of view the (western) Samoans as "country cousins" and the (western) Samoans think the American Samoans aren't "Samoan enough." No, there's no way he didn't know he was going to another country–and neither would you if you were on island, even with your geographical imparment.
Oh cry me a river CNN....
This is exactly why I didnt vote for Obama. He doesnt defend Americans anywhere for anything. Islamist publicly put bounties on Americans heads and nothing. And one clergy promoted that his followers kidnap Americans publicly and Obama still does nothing. No major statements or actions nothing. We are all alone if we are caught in another country. Thats Un American , As far as Im concerned every country in the world should no if you harm or take an American for any reason you will be made an example of. Americans pay for all the money given away in Aid around the world so we should be able to travel safely and no we are protected. Arabs kills a America on youtube he is priority one.
You probably didn't vote for anybody.....especially if you have to pass a literacy test. If they read your post you will never be able to vote. Or maybe you missed election day because you spend too much time whining.
I lol'ed at that, and all too accurate.
Let's vote him off the island
With the experiences he had already, they guy should have definitely been more careful about where he went. As a non-citizen and stateless person, he was arrogan to think he could do whatever he wanted. Maybe the compromise is to send him to Mexico.
It could be worse. I am a paraplegic with considerable trauma from a fall rock climbing 18 years ago. I have no friends or family and after a few strokes and numerous surgeries I stopped driving. Now I am permanently homebound and stuck in my own island. Actually, I don't mind at all. I am no longer competing in the "Rat Race." I have chased the brass ring long enough and it is time to sit and study, think and meditate. I am happy just being. So if you are stuck on an island then consider the joy in being stuck on an island, not at Walmart.
Kinda puts things in perspective .... Oh, and I love the last jab at Walmart. :-)
Let him come back all ready. Jeeze.
Why should the government drop everything to help these people who persist in putting them selves in harms way. We need to be aware of what we do and not always assume.we can cross borders whenever and wereever we chose. Lets take responsibility for our actions. He knew he was crossing a border he was traveling all over. Next time be more careful and do research on were you want to go.
He got himself in this fix. His wanderlust was his downfall. I'm 70 years old and have been in every state in the U.S. (except Alaska) and still want to see more of our incredible country. He had the good fortune of being granted "stateless" asylum in the U.S. and blew it.
There's no such thing as "stateless asylum." In fact, there exists no legal framework to identify stateless people and eliminate the complications caused by statelessness in the U.S. right now– that's the whole overarching problem here. Take a moment to look at the bigger picture.
All this because he could not without sodomy? Serves him right.
Well, at least he doesn't have to pay state income tax.
Too bad he's not an illegal Mexican. He'd have a first class ticket back to the States.
Until reading this article I was unaware that there even is a country known as Western Samoa. American Samoa I've heard of, and knew it was a U.S. territory. As for "self-deportation", you would think it would require an element of knowingly leaving the country (or whatever is defined as the "country", since apparently visiting territories that are not formally part of the country is ok), and not just a side trip that inadvertantly involves being in a different country.
To those who post as if he deliberately violated known rules, may you too find yourselves caught up in a bureaucratice nightmare and homeless. Just don't cry about not having known about it (even if you really didn't).
So, we let this guy float out in nowhere's land while we create Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for illegals that are within the country to allow them to stay here. I'm sure NOoooooo DACA person has ever traveled to Mexico. Too bad the guy is not Mexican because there would be some special rule to allow him to come back in .... I digress.
how does he afford to travel like that? hope he enjoys his new homeland
I was kind of wondering the same thing, but my guess is that he is not traveling to resorts and eating stake when he goes. More like ..... Hey, I think I can afford to wash my pants once this week.
First of all I am a frugal person. I have a job, but I still can't afford to travel to see a place within U.S. How does this guy 'stateless man' lives (used to) in the U.S. does not work, but can afford $$$ to travel so many places in the U.S. continent and U.S. territories. ????. But I can't ???
It's the same, these days, all over the world: THOSE WITH THE POWER TO FIX THE PROBLEM COULDN'T CARE LESS ABOUT FIXING IT. THOSE WHO CARE ABOUT FIXING IT HAVEN'T THE ABILITY.
You know... I don't feel a bit sorry for this man. He's in trouble because his hobby is traveling. I can't find work. I can't afford to pay for my diabetes. I pay all my own bills without being on welfare or taking a handout. He created his problem, and as far as I'm concerned, he can live with it. No one is taking care of me me me. I have done my share of taking care of others. I am still the only one taking care of me.
Worse places to be stuck
I agree tell him to kick his shoes off and have a few dozen Mai-Tais. He should have walked down to the pier and got a fisherman to drop him off on the other side of the island instead of acting like a baby on CNN.
Should've hired a lawyer and tried to find a way to naturalize after 8 years rather than fly around carelessly.
Don't worry, Amanpour has looked into this thoroughly and determined that (as with everything else) it's the Jews' fault.
This really begs the question... I though you guys fought against an empire because you hated what an empire stood for. How did you guys end up becoming a Empire? I mean, Canada doesn't own any islands in the middle of the pacific ? anyone else find that Ironic? or have Americans just accepted it ?
Yes,we have accepted it...Next question?
Well, there are worse places to be stuck. d=)
shouldnt he get it stuck in san fran ? oh wait, that didnt sound right
So let's make sure to fund another alien's problem and claim it as our own whil we let an American Marine rot in a Mexican jail. Let us be sure to furnish first class seatting on a chartered plane to get this "stateless" guy back in time to suck a big one for Christmas.
Bureaucrats... Jeez, just let the guy return to L.A. Stop power tripping on arcane technicalities. We took him in and he's built a life. Settle the damn paper work and let this man live his life.
How does this guy get to travel so much? Where does he get all of his money? Does he not have a job, a career? It appears not. I guess when you are forced to fleea crumbling country they just give you buckets of money to take with you.
Keep him there...we don't need his kind in this country.
I think he did this deliberately. The whole thing is ridiculous.Once a Soviet, an ethnic minority who then "had" to go to his ethnic country, but changed his mind and went to another country. Of course that country made being gay illegal and he was gay, so off he goes. He was declared stateless even though he had a birth certificate at his "home country". He then chooses to fly to distant overseas possessions, and then accidentally goes to another country.
Come on now.
A man can only step on just so many bear traps before he runs out of leg.
So I got bored and started reading this post and all the comments, If you all are wondering where this guy got all this money to travel and such he was doing movies and plays in the Soviet Union before it's collapse, and were in some movies in the United States. So instead of guessing where he gets his money and complaining about if he is or is not paying taxes, do some research it only takes a few minutes to find out.
Amen. And on top of that, a tax-paying, hardworking man in Los Angeles. After just a bit more research (it doesn't take much Googling, folks!), it looks like he had a serious passion for being a professional barista as well as a desire to advance his knowledge and understanding of specialty coffee. Very cool indeed.
can mankind get any more irrational in its thinking... let the man go! This country (and others) have lost thier ever loving minds!!!!!
OK. I really drives me crazy when people here try to jump into conclusion without knowing anything at all. Stateless people in the US have employment authorization issued by DHS and they do pay taxes like any normal US citizens. Where he gets his money? Common people. I am one of the example. I work and I do not have saving account because I love to travel as well. When I get my paycheck, I use money to travel around, find cheap place, cheap air ticket, cheap accommodation. I plan my trip in advance. As soon as I get paid, depends how much I have, I will either buy air fare first, and hotel later. After my trip is paid for, the only thing left is to save some money to get around to where I am going to.
Sometimes it happened when my lovely friends offered to pay for my air fare without asking something in return. So, stop asking those questions, where person gets money and how he can afford to travel. I made some research, and this guy was travel agent before and later on in 2011 he became barista at local coffee shop in LA. He does not travel regularly like everyone assumes. His trip to Guam and Puerto Rico was before 9-11. This is the first time he decided to travel to US territory after 9-11.
And, yet, it is confusing to know American Samoa and Samoa which does not make sense. If our media would talk more about geography we would know a lot about those islands. We all know North and South Korea, Ireland and North Ireland, because those countries are constantly in the media, but not Samoas. So stop judging when you do not know anything. Person is stateless for God sake. You guys enjoy your freedom, you move freely, but stateless persons can't. So show some compassion and understanding.
raise a few thoiusand bucks fot expenses and i can get him into lax in a heartbeat... thats just silly
Evalebun omasepasul ritu ip ugowegej otoqodup, banizuw jivez bapozofo mulabukup, acidev!
He was born in Azerbaijan, let him get a passport from Azerbaijan and go there. He gave up his status in the U.S. when he departed the immigration territory of the U.S. Maybe he has a claim to Armenian citizenship; let him pursue that. If he was born in the former Soviet Union, he probably can get a Russian passport. How was it he got all the way from Turkmenistan to the U.S.? Why didn't he apply for asylum in one of the intermediate countries? Finally, what exactly is meant by "he was allowed to stay" in the U.S. as a stateless person. Clearly he didn't get a green card (permanent residence). Was he in deportation proceedings? Was he an asylum applicant? So-called stateless persons don't automatically get to stay in the U.S. I submit that he has citizenship (nationality) somewhere and he could pursue it if he wanted.
Whether he should be allowed back in the U.S. is a separate question, but there are many options available to him!
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It seems hypocritical for the Obama Administration to provide amnesty for millions of people who don't deserve it and are here completely illegally, then to decide that because a man to which the United States had granted asylum as a stateless person momentarily flew from one side of the Samoan island chain to another, he had "self-deported" and deny him re-admission to the continental United States. Unfortunately, hypocrisy is the informing paradigm for this administration.
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