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W&L Law’s David Baluarte Joins Advisory Council of Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion

Washington and Lee law professor David Baluarte has been named to the advisory council of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI), an independent non-profit organization dedicated to promoting an integrated, human rights based response to the injustice of statelessness and exclusion.

Through research, education and advocacy, ISI seeks to build awareness of the plight of the stateless and disenfranchised and to work with partners in civil society, academia, the UN and government to strengthen human rights protections for these vulnerable groups.

Baluarte teaches and writes about topics ranging from immigration, refugees and stateless persons, and transnational law with a specific focus on international human rights law and practice. He also serves as director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic, a semester-long practical lawyering experience available to third-year students as part of W&L’s innovative third-year curriculum.

Baluarte and his students recently won asylum for a client in one of the best-known cases of statelessness in the U.S. Mikhail Sebastian, sometimes referred to as the ‘most famous stateless person in the U.S.,’ was granted asylum after 15 years in legal limbo.

Sebastian had been marooned in America Samoa for nearly a year when Baluarte became involved in the case. Baluarte had recently completed a comprehensive report on statelessness in the U.S for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a version of which was later published under the title “Citizens of Nowhere,” and was asked by the UN to provide pro bono counsel. Baluarte says that stateless individuals, who lack any lawful status, access to rights or protections, are highly vulnerable to discrimination and abuse.

Baluarte, together with other advocates for the rights of stateless persons, worked hard to ensure that the U.S. Congress would include a legislative solution to statelessness as part of the comprehensive immigration reform initiative in 2013. Baluarte continues to help individual clients, and to research and write about the problem.

“The way that we have written our laws to exclude stateless persons is simply inhumane. We have identified a gap in our laws that produces real human suffering and that urgently needs to be addressed,” Baluarte says.

Baluarte is currently attending a regional conference organized by the Open Society Foundation on this issue in Costa Rica. He will present on statelessness in the U.S. and engage in a dialog about the protection of stateless person in the Americas.

Before coming to W&L, Professor Baluarte was a Practitioner-in-Residence and Arbenz Fellow in the International Human Rights Law Clinic (IHRLC) at American University Washington College of Law. In addition to his clinical teaching responsibilities in that capacity, Professor Baluarte managed projects and consulted for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI).

Before beginning his teaching career, Professor Baluarte served as a staff attorney in the Immigration Unit the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and as a staff attorney at the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL). Professor Baluarte earned his J.D. from American University Washington College of Law, where he was a Public Interest and Public Service (PIPS) Scholar, and his B.A. from Brown University.