man living in South Florida tells the Miami Herald
that he fears being deported to his native Colombia
because a paramilitary group will kill him because he is gay.
Luis Fabriciano Rico applied for asylum in 2001
after arriving in Florida on a tourist visa. "I cannot
go back to my country. [They] will kill me because I
am gay and HIV-positive. I am scared," Rico told the
newspaper. "Let me live in the United States to save my life."
A U.S. immigration judge has denied Rico's
request. That decision has been appealed and could
arrive at any time, Leon Fresco, Rico's attorney, told
the Herald. Rico is 38 and from
Barrancabermeja, Colombia, "a city under siege" by heavily
armed paramilitary groups, according to Amnesty International.
The town in controlled by a right-wing group
called the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia
(AUC), which is listed by the State Department as a
terrorist organization, according to the newspaper. It is
heavily involved in the Colombian drug trade. Fresco said
the AUC will kill "anyone they perceive to be gay.
They throw rocks at your head. They kidnap and rape you."
Rico's family remains in Colombia, except for a
sister who lives in Miami, the newspaper reported. He
has an accounting degree from Colombia but washes
dishes in Orlando, where he lives with his longtime partner,
Juan Carlos Rodriguez. "When I lived in Colombia, they tried
to kill Luis and me," Rodriguez told the newspaper.
"It's better here. We live together, free. I can walk
in the streets. I can go to the movies. I can go shopping."
A different judge granted Rico's partner asylum
in 2003. Rodriguez hadn't amended his asylum claim to
say he is gay, the newspaper reported.
When he first applied for asylum, Rico said it
was for political reasons and later amended his
request based on his sexual orientation. At his 2003
immigration hearing the judge admonished him for not telling
the full story. In his ruling the judge also noted
that Rico had "repeatedly traveled to Colombia from
the United States during the time he was allegedly
being persecuted," according to the newspaper.
Rico traveled to Colombia twice in 2001 to visit
his young daughter, who had been ill, Fresco said.
Nova Southeastern University law professor James
D. Wilets, executive director of the school's
Inter-American Center for Human Rights, recently
testified on behalf of Rico. "Rico's experience with violent
threats from gang members is entirely consistent with
credible reports of widespread violent antigay
activities of gangs and paramilitary organizations,"
Wilets said in a January 6 affidavit. "What is
particularly disturbing about the situation of gay
individuals in Colombia is that the danger to their
physical well-being comes not just from societal
hatred and fear of homosexuality but from the police,
military, gangs, and paramilitary groups connected with the
Democratic representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz and
Corrine Brown also have written to the immigration
appeals board, asking that it overturn the
judge's decision and assign the case to a new judge,
the newspaper reported. (Advocate.com)