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06 • MAY 25, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

LOCAL

Gay asylum seeker held in California detention center since 2016 Nigerian man fled persecution, found harsh conditions in Adelanto By CHRISTOPHER KANE “Welcome To Adelanto,” reads the sign that greets visitors who reach Adelanto, California, “The City With Unlimited Possibilities.” But anyone who has had the misfortune of being held in or having visited the city’s most famous business — an immigrant detention facility — will tell you life’s possibilities are very limited: the detention center is no different from prison. Adelanto Detention Center, two hours northeast of Los Angeles, is privately owned. Detainees say they receive minimal, substandard medical care and conditions are so poor there were multiple hunger strikes staged there last year. A Honduran asylum seeker told the Los Angeles Times in August 2017 that everyone has, at some point or another, considered suicide. It is in this Adelanto facility that a 29-yearold gay Nigerian man named Udoka Nweke has been detained since December 2016. After he was attacked by an anti-gay mob, Nweke fled his native country and made an arduous, traumatic trek through South and Central America before reaching the United States via the San Ysidro port of entry, where he surrendered himself. In Adelanto, after Nweke’s plea for asylum was denied, he attempted suicide. Psychologists diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia and depression. And now activists, including Ola Osaze, national organizer of the Black LGBTQ Migrant Project (BLMP) have petitioned for Nweke’s release on parole so he can access lifesaving medical treatments. Otherwise, they fear Nweke’s condition will worsen. “Seeing him there in the orange jumpsuit,” Osaze told the Los Angeles Blade by phone on May 17, “was a staggering reality for me.” He explained Nweke has been detained for two years as a result of actions that he took only in order to survive. “All he’s seen of the United States is a jail cell, a detention facility.” Osaze is Nigerian, transgender, and queer and won his asylum case. Two heavily armed security officers closely monitored the first in-person meeting between Osaze and

Ola Osaze, national organizer of the Black LGBTQ Migrant Project, is working to call attention to the plight of Udoka Nweke, a gay Nigerian man detained in California since 2016. Photo Courtesy of Osaze

Nweke and Osaze was not allowed to leave his phone number on a Post-It note. “It was just such high surveillance and such a terrible atmosphere,” Osaze said. Staff at Adelanto threatened to place Nweke in solitary confinement. “Because of his condition and because of the conditions in there, the threats have included ‘we will put you in this other ward,’ or ‘we will bind you; we will put you in shackles.’” As difficult as his detention in Adelanto must be, especially in light of his deteriorating mental health, Nweke also lives

in constant fear of what will happen to him if he is deported to Nigeria. “When a man tries to hang himself after his asylum is denied,” Nweke’s attorney Monica Glicken told the Blade, “I think that shows the level of fear he has about returning to his home country.” A program of the Transgender Law Center (TLC), BLMP was launched in December and is led by a committee of 12 black trans and queer migrants. The organization provides a variety of services that include community events, legal support, and regional organizing networks — all part of

efforts to reduce isolation, build leadership, and protect black LGBTQ migrants who, Osaze said, face even tougher challenges in the current political climate. Nweke was introduced to Osaze by the Orange County LGBT Center. Through Osaze and BLMP, he was introduced Glicken, directing attorney at the Public Law Center’s Immigration Unit. It took a long time to connect Nweke with an attorney, Osaze said, because demand is so high and there are so many applicants who have strong asylum cases. Glicken did not represent Nweke in his

Profile for Los Angeles Blade

Losangelesblade.com, Volume 2, Issue 12, May 25, 2018  

Losangelesblade.com, Volume 2, Issue 12, May 25, 2018

Losangelesblade.com, Volume 2, Issue 12, May 25, 2018  

Losangelesblade.com, Volume 2, Issue 12, May 25, 2018

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