At a time when millions of immigrants want to stay in the United States, Yury Decyatnik just wants to leave, but can’t.
He has been under a final order of removal from the United States for over a decade. In that time, he’s been constantly unemployed and lives out of his car in Seattle. He’s been arrested and wants the U.S. government to deport him.
But the government is unable to remove Decyatnik because he doesn’t have a country to take him.
The 54-year-old was born in what is now Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union. Ukraine won’t provide the travel documents he needs to leave because he wasn’t in the country when the Soviet Union broke up, according to a letter from the Ukrainian embassy. The Russians say they’ll take him in, as long as he gets on Russian soil, something he can’t do without being deported.
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Decyatnik wants to go to Russia because he’s got a 6-year-old son there.
“I’ve got some crazy ideas like going to Alaska and crossing across the Bering Strait,” Decyatnik said. “Millions of people try to get into the U.S., I am trying to get out.”
Andrew Munoz, spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said Decyatnik was in the U.S. when the Ukraine declared independence in 1991.
“Therefore the Ukrainian government has refused to issue him a travel document and does not consider him a citizen. As a result, ICE has not been able to effect his removal,” Munoz said.
Decyatnik immigrated to the United States before the Soviet bloc broke up. By the end of the 1990s, his marriage was in shambles. His ex-wife put a restraining order on him. After getting arrested for violating the restraining order, his green card was revoked and he was sent to immigration detention for 22 months.
In the United States, most stateless immigrants are thought to come from the breakup of the Soviet Union.
There aren’t concrete figures on the number of stateless people here. Federal officials don’t track people under final orders of removal who are “stateless” or whose countries no longer exist. Immigrants who can’t be removed within six months of an order of deportation are monitored and usually qualify for employment authorization.