ICE working for Putin

The Man

Former Staff
Jul 2011
A little more than six years ago, Sasha was on his way to a meeting of Russia’s pro-democracy Yabloko Party in the tiny Russian republic of Kalmykia when he was pulled into an unmarked black car by two plainclothes police officers. He was interrogated for three days about his prior activity with the party, his lawyer told me, and his captors demanded that he sign a confession that mentioned something about a kidnapping. But they wouldn’t tell him what his crime was.

After seven months in prison, Sasha—whose full name is being withheld by The Atlantic at his lawyer’s request—pleaded guilty without knowing why. In court weeks later, Russian prosecutors revealed the substantive case against him for the first time: Sasha, along with two others, had been accused and convicted of kidnapping someone, holding him in an apartment, and beating him repeatedly with a hammer. Sasha maintains that he never learned who the alleged victim was—no photo was ever submitted into the criminal record. But he served a brief prison sentence and was released on probation in December 2012, at which point he fled to the United States on a B-2 tourist visa and applied for asylum at the end of 2013.

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.

Much attention has been paid to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the fear of a repeat in the upcoming midterms. Less examined, however, has been Russia’s abuse of Interpol and the American court system to persecute the Kremlin’s rivals in the United States—a problem that the Atlantic Council described in a recent report as another form of “interference” by Russia. Russia’s requests to Interpol to issue Red Notices—the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant in use today—against Kremlin opponents are being met with increasing deference by the Department of Homeland Security, according to immigration attorneys and experts in transnational crime and corruption with whom I spoke.

Interpol cannot compel any member country to arrest an individual who is the subject of a Red Notice, according to its guidelines, and “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,” according to the Justice Department. But the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. immigration courts are effectively facilitating “backdoor extraditions,” as one immigration attorney said, in their reliance on Red Notices as a basis for detention and, ultimately, removal.

Brendan Raedy, a spokesman for ICE, told me that it is the agency’s “responsibility to carefully vet any alleged Russian criminal violator that has come to the United States, and make the very best and most educated determination of whether the individual is indeed a criminal: Do they present an ongoing threat, are they fleeing criminal prosecution, or have they lied about their criminal activity in order to gain entry to the United States?” Raedy noted that ICE has attaché offices who vet “criminal/fugitive leads to ensure that the individual in question is a true criminal, and not simply a political target of those in power.”

“Only after completing this process and determining which individuals are clearly the targets of legitimate criminal investigations do we then prioritize which of these criminals to pursue for either criminal investigation or deportation,” Raedy said. LaTonya Turner, Interpol Washington’s communications chief, declined to comment.

But Michelle Estlund, a criminal defense attorney who focuses on Interpol defense work, told me, “There is a disconnect between our decision to not have an extradition treaty with Russia and the decision to allow Russia to circumvent the extradition process using Red Notices. The effect is that we are removing people to countries that we would not normally extradite to.”

Sasha was initially detained on the basis of overstaying his visa, according to court records. DHS ultimately argued that he was not eligible for asylum because he had been convicted of “a particularly serious crime” in Russia—one that Sasha and his lawyer had argued was politically motivated, as criminal charges in Russia so often are. Despite an immigration judge’s finding that Sasha “testified credibly” with regard to his fears of political persecution, the court denied his request for asylum and ordered him “removed to Russia” in early June. He is still in detention, and his lawyer, Danielle Claffey, is fighting the decision.
Much more: How Russia Persecutes Its Dissidents Using U.S. Courts

Likes: 3 people
Apr 2015

But he served a brief prison sentence and was released on probation in December 2012, at which point he fled to the United States on a B-2 tourist visa and applied for asylum at the end of 2013.
They were illegally working in the US if they came here on a tourist visa.

If they were working illegally they had probably broke other laws, such as identity theft in order to work.

It sounds like they made some bad decisions based on decades of non-enforcement of immigration law in the US.