Gay teen possibly deported to Ethiopia: "Back in his country, it will be like death"

Immigration officials in Boston are threatening to deport a 19 year old gay student back to his home country of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a nation where LGBT relationships are illegal. According to Amnesty International, LGBT people could be jailed for up to 15 years.This possible deportation is happening at the same time President Obama is criticizing Uganda for their dangerous new antigay law. The 19 year old was arrested back in January after he lost his student visa and remains in jail, despite having no criminal record. He appeared before a judge twice, in shackles, where he was asked if he wanted to voluntarily return home. It was at that time he requested an attorney.

“This is a very serious deal,” said the student’s uncle, who spoke on condition of anonymity from Canada. “Back in his country, it will be like death.” Advocates for immigrants said the case illustrates the perils of the US immigration system, where immigrants are not assigned public defenders and are often forced to defend themselves in court. Federal officials say immigration officers ask detainees if they are afraid to go home, which could clear the way for them to apply for asylum, but lawyers say many foreigners are reluctant to confide in their jailers.

And two people in Worcester who know the young man — Todd Williams, an openly gay Republican candidate for state senator, and his campaign manager, Mesfin Beshir, a nonprofit director from Ethiopia — said in separate interviews that the student recently told them he is gay. “He’s openly gay . . . He blatantly told me, ‘I’m gay,’ ” Williams said in a telephone interview. “If he’s returned or deported to Ethiopia, I’m in fear of what may happen to him.”

“It doesn’t really matter for me whether he’s gay, straight, or whatever. He is my nephew. I love him,” his uncle said. But, he added, “If he is [gay]. He should be afraid.”

The mere possibility of this gay teenager being deported back to Ethiopia is disturbing. As long as we have countless nations with dangerous and deadly anti-LGBT laws, the United States should be viewed as a safe haven or a place that offers some hope to LGBT people from around the world that there are safe and welcoming places where they can live in peace.

Towleroad has the full story.