(Los Angeles) BLMP, a project of Transgender Law Center, celebrated the release of Udoka Nweke, a 29 year-old gay Nigerian migrant, from Adelanto Detention Facility last Friday.
Nweke arrived in the United States in December 2016. He presented himself to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at San Ysidro Port of Entry, where he asked for asylum. He fled Nigeria where he was the target of violence for being gay. After arriving in the United States, Nweke was immediately detained and sent to Adelanto Detention Facility, an immigration detention facility notorious for its human rights violations towards immigrants. He was there for nearly 19 months.
Adelanto Detention Facility is a federal contracted private detention facility run by the GEO Group. A June 2018 report by Human Rights Watch, the National Immigrant Justice Center, the Detention Watch Network and the American Civil Liberties Union analyzed the death records of people who died while in immigration prisons and found that between 2010 and 2017, seven people died at Adelanto, more than any other facility in the U.S.
“When Udoka presented himself at the border, he came with the trauma of being attacked with knives at home and witnessing the death of an intimate partner due to his sexuality. These are the conditions that create queer and trans migration, and sending someone who’s experienced this violence to a detention center is inhumane. Udoka’s story tells us that LGBTQ lives do not matter in this country,” said Ola Osaze, national organizer for the Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project. “His story also reminds us of the invisibility of Black migrants. Rarely do we center people like Udoka in our fight for migrant justice.”
The report laid out the stark and fatal consequences immigrants face while trying to access comprehensive medical care, including mental health care, while detained. For Black queer and trans migrants, the impact is compounded. Nweke struggled with depression, and attempted suicide while detained. Advocates pleaded with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release Nweke in order for him to receive the care he needs.
“Instead of receiving help when they present themselves in the U.S., queer and trans migrants are criminalized and imprisoned, which tells them that the violence they were attempting to escape was their fault. ICE does not have the tools to hold the realities of LGBT people, and therefore, ICE must create policies to no longer detain queer and trans asylees” added Isa Noyola, deputy director for Transgender Law Center. “Being thrown in a jail cell deteriorates the mind, body, and soul. Humans don’t belong in cages, especially those who have faced trauma in every step of their journey towards what they believed would be safety.”
Nweke is represented by Monica Glicken and Diana Spix at Public Law Center who will continue to represent him in his bid for asylum. Advocates have organized an online fundraiser on Udoka’s behalf to cover his living expenses while his case is pending. Visit the #FreeUdoka Fund, [http://bit.ly/FreeUdokaFund] to learn more.
Transgender Law Center (TLC) is the largest national trans-led organization advocating self-determination for all people. Grounded in legal expertise and committed to racial justice, TLC employs a variety of community-driven strategies to keep transgender and gender nonconforming people alive, thriving, and fighting for liberation. http://transgenderlawcenter.org
The Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project (BLMP), housed at Transgender Law Center, aims to reduce isolation, build leadership, and protect and defend Black LGBTQIA+ migrants from increasing attack by holding community-building events around the country, providing legal support, increasing access to services, creating regional organizing networks, and launching the first-ever survey focused on our experiences.