He fought corruption in Russia. ICE wants to deport him.

He fought corruption in Russia. ICE wants to deport him.

Gregory Duralev’s supporters say he’s just one of many people fleeing persecution who have been flagged for removal by U.S. immigration authorities.

A Russian national living in California with his American family is now facing deportation from the U.S. due to what experts say is a politically motivated request by Russia for his arrest — one of a number of cases in which U.S. immigration authorities have relied on such a request for prolonged detention and so-called backdoor extraditions.

The story of Gregory Duralev is a tale worthy of Franz Kafka. A former bodybuilder turned businessman, Duralev wrote a master’s thesis on a subject he had encountered firsthand: corruption in the Russian economy.

“I was a little naive, so I decided to send it directly to the presidential website as my own kind of civil initiative,” he said in an interview. “Soon thereafter, I was charged with fraud.”

He decided to flee Russia for a country where he assumed he would find protection: the United States. Duralev entered the U.S. on a tourist visa in November 2015 and applied for asylum two months later. He was awaiting a decision on his asylum application, which allows him to legally remain in the U.S. until a judgment is rendered, when he was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Los Angeles in September 2018 on the charge of overstaying his visa.

Duralev was detained in a maximum-security facility for nearly 18 months, at times in solitary confinement, according to documents he provided and interviews with his friends and legal advisers. His case is now in the Ninth Circuit, and he is expecting a decision by the end of this year on whether he will be ordered for deportation. In the meantime, the Department of Homeland Security has equipped him with an ankle bracelet that monitors his every move.