Gay Nigerian Detained 11 Months Wins US Asylum
December 6, 2004
By Doreen Brandt 365Gay.com Washington Bureau
Washington—A Nigerian gay man who
fled to the US from his homeland after a angry mob murdered his partner has
been granted asylum after being detained 11 months by immigration.
The man, whose name is being withheld, feared that his
own life was in jeopardy. Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria, and his partner
was killed after it was discovered the two men had been in a relationship.
He arrived in New York without proper entry documents and
was immediately taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Once it learned of the case Immigration Equality took up
the man’s cause, securing a lawyer for him who would work without
Immigration Equality (formerly the Lesbian and Gay
Immigration Rights Task Force) advocates for equality under U.S. immigration
law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive immigrants and
In March 2004, the man had a full hearing on his asylum
application and lost, in large part because he was unable to present
documentary evidence corroborating his claim. But lawyer Elise Schwarz and
Immigration Equality never stopped fighting for him.
After a series of phone calls between New York and
Nigeria Schwarz was able to obtain the slain partner’s death certificate and
a key witness stepped forward to testify on the man’s behalf.
Schwarz then made a motion to the Board of Immigration
Appeals to re-open the case and present the new evidence. The BIA granted the
Finding that the man’s partner had been killed because
of his sexual orientation, and finding that his own life would also be at risk
if returned to Nigeria, the Immigration Judge granted him asylum.
After spending almost a year in ICE detention, he has now
had his first glimpse of the Manhattan skyline, and he is working with
community based organizations to find work Immigration Equality said Monday.
“I’m just so grateful to Ms. Schwarz and to
Immigration Equality,” he said in a statement Monday. “Without their help,
I don’t even want to think about what could have happened to me.”
Schwarz, who has represented two previous asylum seekers,
said that this has been her hardest case. “It’s amazing the hurdles that
detained asylum seekers have to overcome,” Schwarz said. “If [he] didn’t
have people who cared about him in the U.S. and in Nigeria, he never would
have had a chance to get the evidence that the immigration judge required.”
As an asylee, he is permitted to remain in the United
States indefinitely and he can apply for legal permanent residence after one
However, his ordeal may not be over. The Department of
Homeland Security has reserved the right to appeal in the case.
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