A critic of the Russian government sought asylum in the US — and was treated shamefully under Trump

A critic of the Russian government sought asylum in the US — and was treated shamefully under Trump
President Donald J. Trump welcomes President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin as he arrives to attend their bilateral meeting during the G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Gregory Duralev has been seeking asylum in the United States since 2016 after exposing corruption in Russia’s economy. It’s no exaggeration to say that this could be a matter of life or death, when critics of the Russian government continue to die “mysteriously.” But Politico’s Natasha Bertrand reports Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has sought to deport Duralev to exactly that—and even as he’s been allowed to legally remain in the U.S. while his asylum claim plays out.

“Duralev has no criminal record in the U.S. or Russia,” Bertrand reported. “Nor do Russia and the United States have a formal extradition treaty. But he was arrested, deemed a flight risk and denied bond, he says, because of a Red Notice issued by Russia and shared with POLITICO. Experts who have reviewed the document say it was so incomplete and riddled with inaccuracies that it was nearly incomprehensible.”

The Atlantic in 2018 described Interpol-issued Red Notices as “the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant in use today,” though it “cannot compel any member country to arrest an individual who is the subject of a Red Notice, according to its guidelines.” Per the Justice Department, the Atlantic said, “the United States does not consider a Red Notice alone to be a sufficient basis for the arrest of a subject because it does not meet the requirements for arrest under the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.”

But during the Trump administration, Kremlin-demanded Red Notices “are being met with increasing deference by the Department of Homeland Security,” the Atlantic continued.

Duralev could now be its next victim. He was detained by ICE when he was arriving for a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) appointment that he assumed was part of his asylum process. It wasn’t. ICE under the Trump administration has in fact detained many other immigrants in this same “bait and switch” deceit, with a Maryland judge earlier this year issuing an injunction blocking mass deportation agents from sweeping up immigrants who were detained when they arrived for what they also assumed were immigration interviews.

Duralev was detained for 18 months, at one point “placed in protective custody and told to know his ‘place’” after complaining about his treatment, Politico continued. He tried asking both the immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals to let him fight his case in freedom, but that was denied due to the faulty Red Notice. “The fact that immigration judges are relying on Russian Red Notices to penalize Russians who have fallen out with the state makes no legal sense,” Bill Browder, another activist previously targeted by the Kremlin, told Politico. “It shouldn't happen. It’s illegal and it’s unjust.”

But that’s ICE, and the Trump administration. Federal immigration officials have also resumed wide-scale sweeps in the middle of a pandemic, detaining more than 2,000 people in July and August to keep filling up inhumane and dangerous detention facilities that advocates have said should instead be emptied due to the novel coronavirus. ICE has in fact actively made the crisis in these facilities worse, by shifting detained people from facility to facility instead of just releasing them.

Politico reports that while Duralev was finally released in February, he could still face deportation. “In the meantime, from his home in California, Duralev is now pursuing a civil lawsuit against DHS for ‘fabricating charges’ against him—accusing him of illegal visa overstay, despite USCIS allowing him to remain in the U.S. pending an asylum decision. He has also sent a complaint to the DHS inspector general, which has yet to be answered.” Duralev told Politico that “DHS has acted no better than the Russian authorities.”

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