Russian Immigrants, Companies Face Ordeal After U.S. Consulate Closure

The Trump administration’s decision to close the Russian consulate in Seattle will cause a lot of frustration and uncertainty for thousands of Russian immigrants in the United States, The Seattle Times reports.

Even before the news of the consulate shutdown, getting a passport renewed was an ordeal that took months. Now, it becomes more complicated for thousands of Russians on the West Coast — and beyond, the newspaper says.

Sasha Senderovich, a Russian literature and Jewish studies teacher at the University of Washington, was not planning on picking up his Russian passport Monday. It had been ready for months, and he kept forgetting about it.

Then he heard the Trump administration had just ordered the Russian consulate in Seattle to close by April 2. The dual Russian-American citizen figured he better go right away. The potential consequences aren’t as big for Senderovich. He has an American passport and uses his Russian passport only when he travels to see relatives or do research.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said. I don’t mind being a small casualty. Something needed to have been done much earlier.” He referred not only to the alleged Russian poisoning of a former spy in Britain, but also the Kremlin’s meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

Still, Senderovich noted, “the people that get affected aren’t the ones involved in these larger political machinations.”

After April, there will only be three Russian consulates left open across the country: in Houston, New York City and Washington, D.C. The Trump administration forced the only other West Coast consulate, in San Francisco, to close last year.

The closures were a response to an alleged Russia-perpetrated poison attack on a former spy on British soil. The move hit an area of the U.S. with sizable Russian populations. Washington has the fourth-largest number of Russian immigrants — 26,000, according to census data. California has nearly 90,000 Russian-born residents, many clustered around Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento.

In its own response to Washington’s move, the Russian Embassy on Monday mocked the U.S. by asking its Twitter followers to vote on which of three U.S. consulates in their country:  in St. Petersburg, Vladivostok or Yekaterinburg, should be shut in retaliation for America’s expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats and the closure of the Seattle consulate.