On Nov 1, 2016 Vice reported: Ibrahim came to America for refuge as a gay man. Living in Guinea, where same-sex activity is illegal, his long-term partner was murdered for his sexuality and Ibrahim feared he would be killed next.
“He knew the US had respect for gay rights, which isn’t true in a lot of places in the world,” Keren Zwick, Ibrahim’s attorney, told me. “A family member helped him get out of the country, and he came to the Western Hemisphere as a stowaway on a boat.”
But when Ibrahim (whose name has been changed to protect his identity) arrived in the US and asked for refugee status, he wasn’t expecting to be thrown into county jail. He would remain there for seven months, in constant fear of abuse by fellow inmates, until he finally won his asylum case.
The United States has long been a destination for immigrants seeking refuge from anti-LGBTQ laws and customs in their home countries. But a growing number, like Ibrahim, are now being placed into detention centers after entering the United States, despite being at high risk for abuse in detention.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) increased its detention of asylum seekers like Ibrahim threefold between 2010 and 2014, placing many in mandatory detention, according to a report published this summer by Human Rights Watch. In the past year, ICE detained 20 percent more of LGBTQ immigrants who did not require mandatory detention last year than it did the year prior, according to a new report by the Center for American Progress (CAP).
This is perfectly legal per the Immigration and Nationality Act, which states that people without legal immigration paperwork caught within 120 miles of the border can be placed into expedited removal proceedings, which includes detention. Even asylum seekers who have passed a credible fear interview can be “detained for further consideration of the application for asylum.”
But ICE’s own guidelines acknowledge that LGBTQ immigrants—those who “fear any harm in detention based on his/her sexual orientation or gender identity”—are an especially vulnerable population who should not be detained unless necessary.