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Gay man living in San Diego granted reprieve from deportation to Uganda

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ABC 10 San Diego
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December 13, 2012

A local gay man facing deportation and what he calls certain death has seen his holiday wish come true. "I was so, so, so, so happy," said Joseph Bokombe. "I'm grateful. It's amazing." For Bokombe, there is joy after plenty of fear. Bokombe, a musician, arrived in San Diego nine years ago from Uganda. His visa eventually expired but Bokombe, who came out in San Diego, was afraid to go home. Fueled by religious forces, Uganda had begun considering a law that would have imposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts. A mob beat one of Bokombe's friends to death. When asked what he thought would happen if he was sent back to Uganda, Bokombe said, "Definitely, without a doubt, I would be killed." In early 2010, Bokombe was stopped for a DUI after he says he unknowingly ate Jell-O that was filled with alcohol. Bokombe was detained by immigration officials in Otay Mesa and faced deportation. He languished in detention for several years. Hector Martinez, a friend of a friend, then took up his fight. Martinez began an online petition and collected about 25,000 signatures.  "I got a lot of help from the community from donations to a legal referral," said Martinez. Bokombe learned that early on in the process, a $20,000 bail had been set. Martinez says the paperwork may have been sent to the wrong address.