Anti-war activists fleeing Russia find detention, not freedom, in the US

Many asylum seekers are released and can later defend their cases in court. But thousands are being sent to detention centers, where it is difficult to find lawyers and gather evidence, and the chances of being granted asylum are extremely slim.

ICE hasn’t released statistics on the nationalities of migrants being held behind bars, but lawyers who regularly work with migrants say Russian asylum seekers appear to have been detained fairly frequently in recent months — sometimes with bail in excess of $30,000. Some Russians have been detained for months in what they describe as extremely harsh conditions.

“Compared to people from other countries, proportionately more Russians are being detained,” said Svetlana Kaff, a San Francisco-based immigration attorney who said she was inundated with requests for help.

Like the young doctors being held in Louisiana, many said they came to the United States thinking they would be welcomed as allies in America’s quest for democracy in Russia and Ukraine.

Olga Nikitina, who fled Russia with her husband after he had been imprisoned there several times, spent five months in the same facility as Ms. Shemiina. “The whole time I was there, they treated us like garbage,” said Ms. Nikitina, 33. “I called hotlines but it didn’t help in any way.”

Her husband, Aleksandr Balashov, 33, was held for four months at a facility in Batavia, New York, where officers told him and others they had no rights because they entered the country illegally.

Ivan Sokolovski, 25, another activist, has been held at Pine Prairie for seven months. He recently lost his asylum application and said he feared being deported to his death. “It would have been more humane to be shot at the border than to stay in prison for so long,” he said. Anti-war activists fleeing Russia find detention, not freedom, in the US

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