Please help MMA writer trapped in draconian detention center

MMA writer Tumen Tushinov has been detained in a for-profit detention center while seeking asylum in the U.S.

By: Ben Kohn | 4 weeks ago
Please help MMA writer trapped in draconian detention center
This is where fight analyst and asylum seeker Tumen Tushinov is being held.

Fight Sight writer detained

Hi everyone. As you may already know, our friend and fellow MMA and fight analyst, Tumen Tushinov who writes for The Fight Sight (TFS), is seeking asylum in the US. What you may not know is that his appointment with CBP resulted in his immediate detention in a draconian facility called Port Isabel— sadly, an all-too-common situation for male refugees seeking asylum. He and his fellow inmates are, quite literally, subsisting on packs of instant noodles. They are given 2 tattered robes and pairs of underwear in a freezing cold cell. Illness is rampant and there is no medical care.   

We (along Tumen’s wife Adiso, and other TFS community members) are mustering legal aid & support, so that he may be released ASAP and so he and his wife can pursue a safe and lawful life in the US. If you are able to donate to his cause—which will go directly into a legal fund to help with Tumen and Adiso’s asylum hearings, and to effect Tumen’s release—and widely share this message, we would be so grateful. For more details on the situation, read Tumen’s letter below. 

A message from MMA writer Tumen Tushinov aka Iggy

Hello, my name is Tumen Tushinov, also known as Iggy. For nearly two years me and my wife have been on the run from the Russian state after leaving the country on March 2, 2022. We were already quite fed up with rampant racism and political oppression, but the barbaric invasion of Ukraine became the final straw for us.

You may be familiar with some of the details of our story from the previous pleas for help we posted. A visa drive has been attempted, but after a year of gunning for it, we failed, coming up short by one single goofy criterion (I never received any awards for MMA analysis).

This placed us back to square one and our original and seemingly only option: political asylum. On Oct 18, 2023, we crossed the bridge from Matamoros to Brownsville, TX and claimed asylum as per the UN Refugee Convention ratified by the US Govt.

My wife was processed and released the same day. I, on the other hand, were arrested and placed in ICE custody for reasons that have not been made clear to me till this day, which at the time of this writing would be Nov 7, a whole 20 days since my arrest.

We have used the official US Govt CBP One app to secure safe passage, which ostensibly guaranteed circumnavigating the usual perils of getting to the US through Mexico. However, as it turns out, it’s merely a tool for the DHS to bump up its productivity numbers by funneling refugees through bottlenecks so that they can then more easily arrest and deport people.

I am detained in Port Isabel Detention Center, Buena Vista Blvd, 27991, Los Fresnos TX. The facility’s peak capacity is 1200 inmates, 75 people per cell block. It is currently near capacity, however the asylum cases are being processed at a snail’s pace, presumably because AHTNA, the contractor tasked with running the facility, receives significant funding and therefore kickbacks to keep us detained.

AHTNA positions itself as the only company capable of “stemming the uncontrollable tide” of immigrants, like we’re some sort of locust horde here to rob the US of A of its riches.

At the time of this writing approximately 200 refugees from the Former Soviet Union and nearly triple that number of refugees from Venezuela & Central America are stuck here with no idea what’s going to happen to them or how this thing even works. We’re pretty much imprisoned indefinitely until the gear magically turns and we get fed to the Texan immigration judges, not even through a real court hearing, but a video call. The courts demand we provide evidence we cannot, no matter how much we want to ourselves, deliver on time.

We’re part of a self-sustaining machine, a detention facility that justifies itself by putting inmates to work for $1 a day. It’s self maintaining, cheap & puts overweight racists to work. Ideal for Texas.

The inmates have been given no explanation as to why they’re here, nor any means of support – be it legal or not. The detention process is extremely opaque, communication between facility staff and inmates is sparse, and ICE or USCIS officers are nowhere to be seen.

Many inmates are citizens of countries that are some of the most clear-cut examples of corrupt, authoritarian, kleptocratic states whose internal and foreign policies are characterized by the dominance of authoritarian strongmen with ties to their military and intelligence service backers who are allowed what is essentially carte Blanche to do whatever they desire to their citizens. Any expression of opposition to the policies of such governments will result in our incarceration, torture and death.

Inmates from the CIS, the former Soviet Union, come from countries such as Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan. Representatives of oppressed ethnic minorities from Russia such as Kalmyks, Buryats, Chechens, Ossetians, Dagestanis, as well as ethnic Kyrgyz, Tatars, Uzbeks, Kazakhs and Tajiks with Russian citizenship. All fleeing both rampant racial discrimination to the point of unwritten racial segregation and political oppression to the point of torture and violent death.

Inmates from Latin America primarily come from Columbia, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela, fleeing crushing poverty and political instability. Quite a significant number of them came here on foot!

Most of us have fled our countries with little-to-no ability to collect evidence but the court demands the entire case to be ready and backed with documented evidence that is next to impossible to obtain in our situation anyways. All this is required of us despite having next to zero access to the outside world, our families, our friends and loved ones. The facility claims we have ample opportunity to seek legal help – that is simply not true: this doesn’t take into account that refugees like us simply do not possess the means to seek legal help through the channels regular Americans can. The context of the very crux of our problem is outright ignored in this case: the majority of refugees possess neither the command of English nor the background of familiarity with US law to comprehend the complexities of going through the channels recommended to us in regards to obtaining legal counsel.

Many of us have crossed the border with our legal spouses, most of us have families. However in practically all such cases we were separated from our families, our spouses, our loved ones – with absolutely no explanation or warning being offered whatsoever. Be it luck or determination, some of us have managed to reach them afterwards after days upon days of anxious ignorance. There were cases where pregnant women were separated from their husbands while on their 25th or even 39th week of pregnancy – extremely vulnerable people left alone in a completely unfamiliar country with no means of support. Asylum cases were also split and made individual, drastically increasing the chances of essentially forcing a family union apart – whereas by all rules of logic, common sense and human decency, the case should be kept and processed as a family case.

Furthermore, beyond our suspicions of system-level racism, we are also faced with in-person racial discrimination from facility staff. Respectfully, we did not escape our home countries and left our previous lives behind only to be faced with yet more discrimination and inhumane treatment. Inmates of Indigenous Siberian/North Asian descent (Kalmyks, Buryats) and Central Asians (Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Tajik, Uzbek etc. Peoples) are being constantly referred to as “Chino”, ” Jackie Chan”, “Bruce Lee”, ” Chink” by facility staff. In addition, we had to endure the much-maligned “slant-eye” gesture being shown to us on many occasions despite attempts to describe such behaviour as deeply offensive. Facility Staff refuse to learn the names of inmates because they’re “hard to pronounce”, referring to CIS inmates as simply “Russians”, even Central Asian nationals, despite the fact that Central Asians suffer from rampant racial discrimination in Russia. Russian nationals of North Asian/Mongolic descent are simply referred to by anti-asian racial slurs.

The Muslim population of this facility has also suffered such indignities as being forced to pray in inappropriate environments instead of being allocated a clean, safe space to pray. Prayers were deliberately interrupted by facility staff & halal food is sometimes only provided after weeks of non-stop requests, forcing Muslim inmates to be underfed and left without any protein in their diet.

The Buddhist population of this facility, such as Kalmyks and Buryats, have been (similarly to Muslims) made fun of with offensive gestures for simply following their basic religious rites and traditions, such as meditation and prayer.

Due to a severe shortage of translators and unwillingness of facility staff to use their own tools (such as machine translation apps), all this – combined with the opaque detention process – has created an atmosphere of fear, oppression and paranoia among inmates – one that is exacerbated by PTSD and other forms of psychological trauma present in refugees due to their experience living under oppressive and violent conditions where things like barbed wire, shared cell blocks (inherent fixtures of the facility) are associated with horrific torture and death.

To add insult to injury, we are not allowed any privacy, with both showers and toilets being almost completely open, meaning that should a facility staff contractor look at us from a certain angle, they’d be able to see us entirely nude – conditions the inmates were entirely uninformed on, naturally.

Detention Officers, basically glorified security guards, frequently overstep their bounds by implying they can decide whether or not a detainee should be deported, which they cannot. They do this in order to intimidate inmates who are frequently not fluent in English or do not have the legal literacy to recognize it as a lie.

Like I said above, Detention Officers often choose not to use the machine translators provided to them by Facility HQ due to either unfamiliarity or unwillingness to familiarize themselves with the tool. Instead they rely on maliciously misinterpreting or misrepresenting facility rules to intimidate or threaten inmates. Quite a number of them style themselves after police officers or military servicemen guarding dangerous convicts. Instead most of them are just aged, overweight slackers pushing around 5’1, 90lb malnourished labourers from Central America. Some of them go as far as to brag about their Use of Force record.

This entire situation: being forced to live in constant fear of deportation and abuse by staff, exceedingly long Credible Fear Interview wait times and biased judges, lack of proper communication, continued racial discrimination, being separated from our families, and the poor conditions of this facility, most if not all inmates are forced to live in a state of continuous state of severe emotional distress. ICE Officers are nowhere to be seen & won’t give any answers, and quite often their answers do not hold up to legal scrutiny. Continuous living in such conditions had caused anxiety so severe it led to instances of self-harm in certain inmates.

We urgently require help. All we want is to finally be treated like the human beings we are. Human beings with lives, families, friends, loved ones, hopes and dreams. Human beings that just want to have the same chance to lead a normal, peaceful life free of fear – a chance that has been given to so many others – a chance that was not given to us due to the sheer circumstance of our birth.

Within our rights as Asylum, we merely wish to be heard and listened to. Thank you.

You know you can count on us for quick, consistent quality UFC and MMA coverage. Bloody Elbow is an independent, reader supported publication. Please subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with our best work and learn how you can support the site.

Join the new Bloody Elbow

Our Substack is where we feature the work of writers like Zach Arnold, John Nash and Karim Zidan. We’re fighting for the sport, the fighters and the fans. Please help us by subscribing today.

Share this story

About the author
Bloody Elbow Podcast
Related Stories