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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 28, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 39
The Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project celebrates the release of Nigerian asylum-seeker Udoka Nweke from the Adelanto Detention Facility
Section One
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The Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project celebrates the release of Nigerian asylum-seeker Udoka Nweke from the Adelanto Detention Facility

LOS ANGELES - The BLMP, a project of the Transgender Law Center, celebrated the release of Udoka Nweke, a 29 year-old gay Nigerian migrant, from the Adelanto Detention Facility last Friday.

Nweke arrived in the United States in December 2016. He presented himself to US 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 the Adelanto Detention Facility, an immigration detention facility notorious for its human rights violations toward immigrants. He was there for nearly 19 months.

The 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 US.

'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 US, 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 the 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 on every step of their journey toward what they believed would be safety.'

Nweke is represented by Monica Glicken and Diana Spix at the 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.

Through leadership development, capacity building, and organizing, the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project (BLMP) addresses the ways in which Black LGBTQIA+ migrants are targeted by the criminal law and immigration enforcement system and marginalized in the broader migrant community and racial and economic justice movements. Housed at the Transgender Law Center, the BLMP was co-created and is staffed by TLC National Organizer Ola Osaze through a 2017 Soros Fellowship. The BLMP 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. To learn more, visit: https://transgenderlawcenter.org/programs/blmp Courtesy of the BLMP

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