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August 8 , 2014

Good and bad news for LGBT immigrants

El Paso, Texas--On July 30, a federal immigration judge granted asylum to a gay African in a Texas detention center.

Amidu Fredrick Sinayor escaped from Ghana to South America after being attacked repeatedly by anti-gay gangs spurred on by religious and political leaders in the African nation.

Dozens of Africans have made the perilous trek from Africa to South America and then north to the United States, only to be picked up by immigration officials.

Depending on which border town they cross into the U.S. in, there’s between a 13 and 62 percent chance they will be granted asylum.

Sinayor was going to escape to South Africa, but after hearing news reports of violence against LGBT people in the country, despite its constitutional protections, he decided instead to head to the United States, paying sailors in Cameroon $2,000 to take him across the Atlantic.

He was brought to Colombia, then met up with a group of other Africans and traveled north through Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and then on to Mexico and finally El Paso, Texas.

Sinayor was attacked back home by Ga Mashie Youth for Change, an anti-gay group that the police cannot prosecute because of their operating under the aegis of local leaders.

“The Chief and his elders and some politicians both supported this youth movement that targets homosexuals and lesbians… leaving the police with little to do to fully defend and protect the victims,” police superintendent A.C. Wowolo wrote in a letter to the immigration court, supplied to Buzzfeed by Sinayor’s attorneys.

The federal attorney could appeal the court’s decision in Sinayor’s case; regardless, it will take weeks for the government to process his asylum.

Two states over, in the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, a 23-year old transgender woman who grew up in the state after being brought in illegally as a child, was raped by her cellmate after reporting the threats and bullying to facility staff.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials then allegedly tried to pressure Marichuy, born Jesus Leal Gamino, into signing a statement claiming that it was consensual sex and not rape.

Two detainees at the privately-run center killed themselves in the space of a week last year, and despite statements that ICE has a zero-tolerance policy for such assaults, Marichuy has been offered no assurance that she will be protected, according to the Transgender Law Center, which, along with the Acroiris Liberation Team, is pushing for her to be released from the detention center.

The facility falls under the aegis of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, and the rules handed down in 2012 for PREA include LGBTI protections.

The Center for American Progress says that LGBT detainees are 15 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than their cisgendered heterosexual counterparts.

“ICE has shown that they are incapable of ensuring Marichuy’s protection from future assaults or retaliation for reporting the awful sexual abuse she has survived,” said ALT’s Francisco Luna. “We see no other solution than for ICE to immediately release her, where her community can take measures to ensure that her community can help her heal.”









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