A Ugandan lesbian who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum now faces deportation to her home country, where it’s a crime to be gay.
The potential move is being seen as a startling decision by the U.S. government in determining an LGBTQ refugee faces no danger in Uganda after the nation just this month announced it may consider a “kill the gays” bill calling for execution of gay and lesbian citizens. The government has now backtracked on those plans, but the nation is still very hostile to LGBTQ people.
The Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration means the woman ;— identified in a Rolling Stone article only as Margaret — risks being returned to a country where she was beaten and raped before fleeing to the U.S.
Margaret had been waiting months in a Buen Pastor shelter south of the border waiting for Grupos Beta, a Mexican National Institute of Migration service, to process an asylum request.
But New Mexico attorney Nancy Oretskin in a visit to the shelter encouraged Margaret and a friend named Kodi to cross the border and seek asylum in the U.S. Oretskin believed that because they were migrants from a nation that directly threatened their personal safety, the case for asylum could be made despite efforts by Donald Trump's administration to make the process difficult.
“I believe they could both easily win if they’re given a chance,” Oretskin said.
When Margaret and Kodi crossed the border, U.S. Border Patrol allowed them to come through, but they were quickly separated from Pretskin.
Kodi, who survived a beating by police who suspected he was part of a Anglophone rights terrorist group, showed up in a New Mexico detention center days later and now awaits a decision on asylum.
But Margaret called Oretskin weeks later with news that U.S. officials determined she had no “credible fear” of persecution if she is returned to Uganda. She was given a date to make her case to an appeals judge. She’s in an El Paso, Texas, detention center for now, but if she loses her appeal will be put on a plane to Uganda.
“I pray that everything works out,” Margaret told Rolling Stone. “Because it has been so tough. Ever since I was 13, I just wanted to be free, instead of hiding who I am. I just want to be free, that’s all. And happy.”
Uganda’s penal code allows for life imprisonment for the so-called crime of homosexuality. President Barack Obama’s administration had condemned such criminalization of sexuality, but the Trump administration has said fighting such homophobia would be anti-Christian.