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A gay 19-year-old student from Ethiopia was attending college in the United States but when his student visa expired, he was facing deportation back to Africa where same-sex conduct lands most individuals in prisons. The U.S. detained the student for over two months before freeing him and working on granting him asylum.
Because of low grades in school, the Ethiopian man’s visa was revoked and he was jailed back in January. Immigration officials say the detention had nothing to do with his sexual orientation. Todd Williams, a runner up for state Senate, is working with the immigrant to go through the process of granting him asylum in the U.S.
Gay people in Ethiopia face all sorts of abuses because of intolerance and misunderstandings. In some regions, the student may face indefinite prison time for being gay. It is important that he stay in the U.S. for his own safety despite not attending school.
Immigration advocates say the Ethiopian man’s case points out the apparent risks associated with the U.S. immigration system. Because immigrants are not automatically assigned public defenders when facing deportation, immigrants who do not understand the system or the language have no chance at even staying. During the man’s initial hearings, he did not have a lawyer and could not communicate with the court because of a language barrier so the immigration judge ordered a mental-health review.
Finally, nonprofits and Williams began working with the man realizing he needs to “seek counseling, housing, and asylum so that he can stay in the United States.” Although the court is requiring the man to wear an electronic tracking device on his ankle, his lawyer says she is “glad that the immigration officials saw that this young college student should have been released…” Individuals seeking help with immigration matters should contact a licensed immigration attorney who can properly advise them.
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