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The United States began to deport Russians fleeing mobilization: they were previously allowed to stay in America

The Biden administration has resumed the deportation of Russians. This is a clear reversal of the position taken after Russia's invasion of Ukraine just over a year ago, when such deportations were suspended. TheGuardian.

Photo: IStock

A young Russian who came to the US to escape from military mobilization in Ukraine was abruptly deported over the weekend from the US back to Russia. He was among several asylum seekers from Russia. Many of them moved to the US last year and are now afraid that the US government will return them to Russia. There they may face prison or an ambulance to the front line.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) remains committed to humane, efficient, and professional immigration enforcement. Ice facilitates the movement and expulsion of non-citizens by commercial airlines and charter flights as required by the mission, the federal agency said this week. "Ice makes transfers to other countries, including Russia, in accordance with the country's removal guidelines."

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News of the resumption of deportations to Russia comes just over a year after reports that the Biden administration had suspended deportation flights to Russia, Ukraine and seven other European countries. It is unclear when deportations to Russia resumed.

Migrants from Russia came to the United States and hoped to receive asylum and protection from deportation due to their declared anti-government stance. Now the apparent change in US policy has caused confusion among migrants and their supporters. They have little time left to plan.

Jennifer Scarborough, a Texas lawyer whose clients include four Russians who entered the US across the border from Mexico and are seeking asylum, is one of those struggling with the political confusion. These men cited their fear of being called up to fight when applying for asylum.

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Scarborough said Ice representatives told her that one of her clients was deported over the weekend. She explained that his legal and residence status meant that she had no doubt that he had been taken to Russia.

“I don’t know what will happen to him,” Scarborough said. “Russia has been incredibly vocal about its feelings for the opposition. The mere fact that they fled Russia to go to the United States puts them at risk.”

Two other Scarborough clients remain in legal limbo as they have little to no options in their asylum claims. The men stated during their respective interviews that there was a "significant likelihood" of persecution or torture if returned home. They feared mobilization and the consequences of evasion.

According to Scarborough, immigration officials ruled that the fear of being drafted into the military did not meet the criteria for a definition of "justified fear." Each of them appealed to an immigration judge, who agreed that they did not qualify.

Scarborough said the two men were unaware they only had seven days to request a new "credible interview about justified fear" following the judge's decision. According to Scarborough, the two men did not make their request by the deadline, so they were unable to get another interview. The two now have expulsion decisions pending, meaning they could potentially be deported to Russia at any time. One is currently in immigration detention in Louisiana, Scarborough said, while the other was released after going on a hunger strike.

One of the three Scarborough clients remaining in this situation still managed to submit documents on time - and subsequently received the opportunity for a new interview. According to Scarborough, during that second interview, immigration officials determined that the fear of being drafted into the army was a "justified fear."

While obtaining a credible definition of fear is just the initial step towards a potentially successful asylum claim, Scarborough said, it is important for asylum seekers because immigration authorities basically release migrants who meet those criteria during the application process.

“Fleeing the draft could actually be a legitimate asylum ground,” Scarborough said, adding later that she did not see how the resumption of deportation flights was consistent with the US position on Russia.

“If we are against this war, then why do we say that Russia has the right to carry out this conscription and send people to fight in Ukraine?” she says.

“I don't understand how you put these two policies side by side,” she said. “I just have questions about when they restarted it and why. In March 2022, the US announced that they were stopping deportations to Russia due to the political situation, so I don't understand why they resumed the deportations and did it so quietly."

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Meanwhile, Ice noted that: “U.S. immigration laws allow non-citizens to seek exemption from removal, including through credible procedures. However, after all due process and appeals have been exhausted, non-citizens are still subject to a final removal order from an immigration judge. Ice officers can carry out the expulsion."

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