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The Plot of ‘The Americans’ is Playing Out in Real Life

The Heathfield brothers are now embroiled in a case not dissimilar from the current plight of DACA recipients.

Patrick Harbron/FX

A battle over “the integrity of Canadian citizenship,” is underway as the sons of two Russian intelligence agents who operated out of Toronto and Boston for upwards of two decades now fight to become Canadian citizens. And it’s playing out like a plot line from The Americans.

Andrey Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova came to Toronto under aliases Donald Heathfield and Tracey Ann Foley. After their sons were born in the early 1990’s, the family moved to France and then Boston where they were later apprehended by the FBI in 2010. Just before both parents were exchanged with the Russian government in a spy swap—when two governments trade captured spies or combatants— their son’s Timothy and Alexander were sent back to Russia.

While all people born in Canada are typically granted citizenship as a birthright, those born to foreigners working in Canada aren’t given the same privilege. Lawyers for the two sons are now arguing that because the boy’s parents weren’t officially working for a foreign government, they’re except form the caveat that’s currently denying them Canadian citizenship rights. Still, Canada’s Supreme Court is set to rule on the case this week.  

The whole situation, sans the getting caught part, sounds a lot like The Americans, which follows two Russian spies who, largely unbeknownst to their American-born children, are posing as American parents. The show, which just wrapped its final season, was partially influenced by the family at the center of Canada’s citizenship crisis.

The Canadian government has fought this from the jump and originally threw out Alexander’s case, but was later forced to reconsider and actually give the siblings a chance to appeal their deportation. According to a report by the Washington Post, Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal ruled in a 2-to-1 decision that the aforementioned caveat only means anything if the people in question had diplomatic privileges that Timothy and Alexander without question didn’t have. Neither of the brothers ever learned to speak Russian and both identify as Canadian.

What both sides are arguing in this situation feels a lot like the current debate over the DACA in the US. Timothy and Alexander certainly had no say in whether they’d be born to Russian intelligence agents any more than they chose to be born in Canada, but just like dreamers, they’re being held accountable for the actions of their parents. Canadian politicians have long argued that the northern nation should take dreamers if Americans don’t want to, but their president Justin Trudeau, despite his support for Canada taking in Syrian refugees, has been slow to extend that offer to illegal migrants.

Though the brothers as well as their legal counsel, have denied commenting on the matter outside of an affidavit, former Canadian ambassador Daniel Livermore is suggesting that the Canadian government not spend anymore time trying to deny Alexander and Timothy citizenship.

“I have trouble believing they’re dangerous,” he said to the Washington Post. “They’re not going to get a job in the federal government and get a security clearance, but otherwise they’ll be fine.”