Last edited: January 07, 2005

Gay Nigerian Detained 11 Months Wins US Asylum, December 6, 2004

By Doreen Brandt 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 compensation.

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 their families.

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 motion.

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 year.

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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