What happened was that Vassili, originally here in 1991 on a tourist visa, applied for asylum because, he says, his participation in the then fledgling Rukh party endangered him and his family.
He was denied asylum, but appealed the decision. Meanwhile, he says, he and other members of his family continued to receive work authorization cards. Vassili says he assumed that, because he continued to receive those cards, because he had hired lawyers -- spending more than $10,000 -- to work on the case, and because he had heard nothing from immigration officials, he and his family could stay. "Mistake," he says over a telephone, from behind the Plexiglas wall.
Another assumption that was dead wrong: Because he lived like a middle-class, hard-working, taxpaying, guy -- paying tuition to send his kids to Catholic schools, then to college, and strapping himself with a mortgage on his new house -- he thought he could catch a break. "We do not hide," he says. "We do not break laws. Why are we in prison? Why are we treated like criminals?"
They of course were paying taxes and contributng to their adopted community. Others here illegally do none of these things. Yet the Karnaoukhs will likely be deported. And the stats will look good on next month's report. But at what kind of price?