Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19.
(USA Today) -- There are probably fewer than about 200 Chechen immigrants in the United States, and most of them are settled in the Boston area, as many U.S. cities have refused to accept asylum applicants from the war-torn area of southern Russia, says Glen Howard, president of the Jamestown Foundation.
About 70% of the Chechen immigrants are women, Howard says. Very few men are granted asylum because of U.S. anti-terrorism policies and because Russia often protests when ethnic Chechens try to settle in the U.S., he said. The U.S. admitted only 197 refugees from all of Russia in 2012.
That contrasts with many European countries, especially Austria, where many Chechens who want to leave difficult conditions at home settle. Austria has about 30,000 Chechen immigrants, Howard said.
"This family is a very rare episode. Very few make it here, even fewer get green cards," Howard said. The Jamestown Foundation has testified on behalf of several ethnic Chechens who have applied for asylum in the United States, which is typically a three- to five-year process. Both Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, suspects in the Boston marathon bombing, were naturalized U.S. citizens.
President Obama has tried to "restart" U.S. relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has maintained a tough policy on Chechen insurgents. The U.S. also wants to maintain a key military supply line to Afghanistan known as the "northern route," which runs across Central Asia and southern Russia.
Immigrating from Chechnya is particularly difficult because there are several groups on the U.S. Department of Treasury terrorism list, such as Islamic International Brigade, the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment and the Riyadus-Salikhin Battalion, which were implicated in the Moscow theater hostage bombing of 202 that killed 129, including an American.
The Tsarnaev family apparently moved to Dagestan after the outbreak of the Russia-Chechnya war in 1999. The fact that they resided in Makhachkala and not in Khasavyurt, as most other ethnic Chechens in the republic, indicates that they had the financial means to live in the capital of Dagestan, which is quite expensive, says Mairbek Vatchagaev, a Chechen analyst for the foundation.
Tamerlan and Dzhokhar's mother, Zubeidat, emigrated legally to the United States and received permanent residence for herself and her four children, Vatchagaev said.
Dzhokhar, the suspect who is still at large, is a Chechen name and he was likely named after the first separatist president from Chechen who died in 1995, Dzokhar Dudaev, Howard said.