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U.S. Law and the WSA Passport

(The following is a condensed version of an article that appeared in Immigration Newsletter, Vol. 15, No. 6, November-December 1986. We are reprinting it now because the information remains timely and serves to answer questions often raised regarding WSA passports. Immigration Newsletter is published by the National Lawyers Guild.) Aliens in exclusion proceedings must be detained if they arrive in the United States with documents which, according to U.S. law, "appear on their face to be false, altered or to relate to another person." The Immigration and Naturalization Service's district director may grant such aliens parole from detention, but only in limited circumstances.

A passport from the World Service Authority (WSA), in combination with a visa for another country, may bring about the release of those held indefinitely in detention because of their lack of legitimate travel documents. The Equal Justice Institute was recently able to employ this novel method for winning the freedom of a client who had been in detention for 17 months.

Mr. B., an Iraqi who entered the U.S. with a false passport, was detained pending exclusion proceedings. Because he lacked valid travel documents INS would not parole him. He feared persecution in his homeland if returned to it, and therefore remained in detention throughout the adjudication of his asylum claim. He overcame this obstacle by obtaining a passport from the World Service Authority and, with this in hand, a visa to the Dominican Republic. He submitted the passport and visa to INS and was permitted to leave the U.S.

The World Service Authority has existed since 1954. It is the administrative organ of the World Government of World Citizens, an organization founded shortly after World War II by Garry Davis, an idealistic former U.S. bomber pilot. The World Government is an attempt to form a functional, sovereign, international meta-government, with the goal of establishing a representative world government with appropriate organs to protect fundamental human rights and secure peace.

The World Service Authority issues passports in accordance with the inalienable right to freedom of travel, codified in Articles 6 and 13(c) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Recognition of the validity of the WSA passport for travel varies from nation to nation. According to the WSA, the passports are recognized de jure in about half a dozen nations, and have been accepted on a de facto basis in over 100 others, including the U.S., Canada, France and China. Refugees without documents are a particular concern of the WSA, which maintains a fund to aid refugees in securing WSA passports.

It is unclear what validity a WSA passport has under U.S. law. One provision in the Immigration and Naturalization Act defines a passport as "any travel document issued by competent authority showing the bearer's origin, identity, and nationality if any, which is valid for the entry of the bearer into a foreign country." Another section of the law excludes from admission those non-immigrants not in possession of a passport authorizing them to return either to the country from which they came or to some other country.

De jure recognition of WSA passports establishes the competence of the WSA, in fact, to issue valid passports. The situation is analogous to that of a nation whose existence is recognized by some other nations, but not by all, such as, at various times, the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Rhodesia under the Ian Smith regime, and Israel. The passports of those nations were acceptable in some, but not all, nations. The "competence" of those nations to issue passports was determined by the willingness of another nation to accept the passport as valid. Since the World Government does not have a territorial jurisdiction, the WSA passport, standing alone, may not satisfy the Immigration Act's requirements. Nevertheless, a WSA passport containing a visa to enter a third country arguably remedies this problem and successfully secured Mr. B's release from detention.

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