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Dear President Biden,
We are alarmed by the recent deportation of a Russian man seeking asylum in the US because he could not in good conscience fight in the war in Ukraine. We are concerned that this apparent reversal of your administration’s policy also will affect others currently in the US who have fled conscription or mobilization in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.
If we are to honor the values of peace, individual liberty, and freedom of religion and belief, it is our obligation to assure that not only are these asylum seekers granted due process, but also that their claims are adjudicated fairly and in strict accordance with US law and precedent. We know from the little press coverage they have received, that these asylum seekers are people of conscience. We also know that they face certain prosecution, and quite possibly other serious threats to their liberty and well-being if they are returned to their countries.
With the International Criminal Court having recently issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin for war crimes committed in the war in Ukraine, anyone seeking asylum to avoid conscription is acting in accordance with the spirit of International Law, overwhelming global sentiment against the war, and most importantly, their own conscience. While US law recognizes a sovereign country’s right to conscript its citizens and punish those who refuse, it also acknowledges that a claim for asylum can be made when an asylum seeker may face severe punishment because of their religious or political beliefs, or if their conscripted military service would force them to participate in war crimes (Matter of A-G-, 19 I&N Dec. 502 (1987). If our government is deporting asylum seekers who fall into this group – and the evidence we have seen to this point suggests it is – we have a duty as citizens to uncover the facts and, if necessary, petition our government for justice on behalf of these potential prisoners of conscience.
To this end, we are requesting that your administration take the following actions immediately:
- Halt all deportations to Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.
- Review the policies and procedures of Homeland Security and its relevant Operational and Support Components: Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), specifically, the Houston Asylum Office, to ensure that Asylum Officers are receiving proper training on credible fear claims based on issues of conscription.
As the war rages on, and death and destruction mounts, the United States has a legal and moral obligation to provide refuge to anyone with sincere political, religious or moral objections to their participation in the atrocities taking place in Ukraine. These courageous young people deserve our support. They are on the right side of history. Let it be said that you were, as well.