The unidentified youth whose identity has been concealed had been jailed since January after he lost his student visa, allegedly because of low grades reported the Boston Globe.
An official with Amnesty International told LGBTQ Nation that LGBT people in Ethiopia face criminal sanctions and prison time for offenses related to same-sex relations and also face abuse.
It is unclear if the immigration judge was aware that the youth had publicly come out and posted to a public forum that he is gay. But, according to the Globe, he also told at least two people who confirmed it saying they fear for his safety if he is deported.
“This is a very serious deal,” said the student’s uncle, who spoke on condition of anonymity from Canada. “Back in his country, it will be like death.”
Todd Williams, an openly gay Republican candidate for Massachusetts state senator, said the Ethiopian man’s case reflected the risks in the US immigration system, which does not assign public defenders to people facing deportation. He also said the young man had told that he is gay. “Now we're the process of getting him asylum,” Williams added.
During his initial hearings, the man did not have a lawyer and did not seek asylum in immigration court. Twice last month, a Boston immigration judge offered to send the man back to Ethiopia. “Do you want to voluntarily depart the United States?” Judge Paul Gagnon had asked him at a Feb. 20 hearing. Judge Gagnon also ordered a mental-health review for the man, because he struggled to communicate with the court.
Williams said he and nonprofits will help the man seek counseling, housing, and asylum so that he can stay in America. Williams noted that ICE is requiring the man to wear an electronic tracking device on his ankle while he is free from custody.