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Our Broken Immigration System


If there’s one issue where Biden has been very bad, it’s immigration. I think he just doesn’t care and sees no political upside in making the immigration system less horrible. He might be right about the latter part of that.

Now, the only reason conditions in these immigration prisons is getting coverage is that the people stuck in it are Russians, i.e., white. No one in the media cares when this happens to Guatemalans or Venezuelans. But this at least an opportunity to peak behind the massive human rights violations that we as a nation are evidently OK with.

They had fallen in love their first year in medical school in Russia, joined by their commitment to building democracy in a country where any remaining hope of it was disappearing.

When Russia pushed into Ukraine early this year, Mariia Shemiatina and Boris Shevchuk, who had married and become practicing physicians, posted videos of the bloodshed and antiwar messages on social media. “I call on Russians to see the truth, to not believe the lies of the Russian media,” Ms. Shemiatina, 29, wrote on Instagram. Her posts were deleted by the authorities again and again, she said — until her accounts were blocked.

The police called her family in search of the couple, who had gone into hiding. Certain that they were on the brink of being conscripted to serve as medics on the front lines, or imprisoned for their political activity, the couple decided to flee.

They managed to make it to Mexico in mid-April. Two weeks later, they drove to a U.S. port of entry, handed over their passports and requested asylum, expecting their first taste of true freedom. Instead, their hands were cuffed, their feet shackled and they were flown to remote immigration detention centers in rural Louisiana. It would be six months before they would see each other again.

“I thought when we left Russia that our suffering would be over,” Mr. Shevchuk, 28, said in an interview from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Pine Prairie, La. “I feel helpless.’’

Like the young doctors who were held in Louisiana, many said they had come to the United States thinking they would be welcomed as allies in America’s push for democracy in Russia and Ukraine.

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

Her husband, Aleksandr Balashov, 33, was detained for four months at a facility in Batavia, N.Y., where he says officers told him and others that they had no rights because they had entered the country illegally.

Ivan Sokolovski, 25, another activist, has been held at Pine Prairie for seven months. He recently lost his asylum case and said he fears that he will be deported to his death. “It would have been more humane to be shot dead at the border than to be held in prison so long,” he said.

If you want to survive in this world, don’t believe anything America says. Ever. It’s all lies. At least Republicans are honest about their hate and violence and xenophobia.

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