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'We came here for protection,' but U.S. asylum for LGBTQ migrants fleeing attacks is difficult

Denver family willing to sponsor all three
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Posted at 4:42 PM, Nov 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-01 23:46:18-04

DENVER – Three young people, two of them gay, fled Honduras earlier this year because of what they call a constant barrage of dangerous homophobic attacks and threats.

Now, one of them has found asylum with a host family in Denver while the other two remain in ICE custody.

“It’s a tragedy,” said Margaret Bobb, the sponsor family for the teen who was released.

His name is Oscar Juarez Hernandez, 19. Oscar fled Honduras earlier this year with his partner, Darwin Garcia Portillo, and Darwin’s 16-year-old little brother.

"People in Honduras just don't accept the fact that two people who are the same sex could be partners, a couple," Oscar Juarez Hernandez said.

“People in his neighborhood were being killed for being trans and gay,” Bobb said. “The gangs are very homophobic. The gangs run the neighborhood. And the gangs were telling them, 'Get out or we will kill you.'”

Oscar was unsure what to expect in the U.S., but knew there must be a better life here.

"We came here because we were fearful in our own country, and we came here for protection," Oscar said.

Bobb and her husband heard Oscar's story, had the extra space and opened up their home.

"We're retired teachers,” Bobb said. “Our children are grown. People in (Oscar’s) neighborhood were being killed for being trans and gay."

When the three young men reached the border in Tijuana, U.S. border patrol split them up.

“Sent all three to three separate detention facilities,” Bobb said.

Oscar was the only sent to the Aurora ICE detention center. After seven months, Oscar was released on Sept. 17.

"Through great fortune, he came before an asylum judge in Aurora and was granted asylum," Bobb said. “Oscar won his asylum case because he had a preponderance of evidence that his life was in danger for being LGBTQ and being an activist.”

But his partner, Darwin, remains locked up in an ICE facility in northern Louisiana, and Darwin’s little brother is in a juvenile facility in Texas.

"And he's attempted suicide twice because he can't get out," Bobb said. “He's scared. And he has no way to communicate with his brother."

The Bobb's have pled repeatedly for the brothers’ release.

"Lots of documentation,” Bobb said. “We sent a notarized letter. The paperwork is unbelievable. People say, 'Well, they should do it legally.' Well, they did do it legally. They did exactly what the process says they're supposed to do. By the book. And we're just getting stonewalled."

Bobb says that because Darwin is gay, he's also vulnerable in ICE custody.

"There's huge homophobia within the detention facility," Bobb said.

“We've just never been separated like this.” Oscar said. “I miss him so much."

“It’s tragic,” Bobb said.

Garcia Portillo goes before a federal judge again next Thursday.

If he and his brother are not released, Bobb is hoping for public pressure and congressional intervention.

At this point, Bobb says Darwin’s faith is getting him through it.

“They're always saying, ‘God is good. God will see me through.’ It's amazing to me the faith the people in detention have," Bobb said.

"It's difficult because this isn't what we wanted," Oscar said.