Putin Is Using ICE to Target Russian Dissidents in the U.S.

When people talk about the need to abolish and/or reform ICE, they usually base that on the fact that Donald Trump is using the department as his own private police force all across the country to implement his “deport ’em all” strategy with undocumented immigrants. But as Natasha Bertrand documents, our president isn’t the only one using ICE for his own purposes.

To understand this story, it is important to keep some things in mind. The United States doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Russia. We have never been in the habit of returning people accused of crimes to that country because Putin tends to use his own legal system to harass, jail and even murder political opponents.

Over the years, some of the people who fear being targeted by Putin have come to the United States to seek asylum. Putin has responded by issuing “Red Notices” via Interpol, which are the closest thing to an international arrest warrant in use today. While the Justice Department has determined that Red Notices do not meet the requirements for arrest under the 4th Amendment, DHS and ICE are relying on them to detain and ultimately deport those targeted by Putin.

To demonstrate what is happening, Bertrand tells the story of someone she calls “Sasha” in order to protect his real identity. Sasha was arrested on his way to a meeting of Russia’s pro-democracy Yabloko Party in the Russian republic of Kalmykia. He was accused of kidnapping and eventually succumbed to the demands of his jailers to sign a confession. After serving a short prison sentence, he came to the US on a B-2 tourist visa and applied for asylum. Then this happened:

In October 2017, Sasha and his wife were driving to work in Atlanta when they were pulled over by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. They told Sasha that the International Criminal Police Organization, or Interpol, had issued a Red Notice at Russia’s behest, alerting authorities that he had violated the terms of his probation by traveling to the U.S. years earlier.

Sasha has been detained since then. Both DHS and the court have refused his request for asylum “because he had been convicted of ‘a particularly serious crime’” in Russia and he awaits deportation.

Bertrand writes that one immigration attorney calls these “backdoor extraditions.” Personally, I’d simply call it yet another way that the Trump administration is conspiring with Vladimir Putin right in front of our eyes.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.