Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for April, 2011

Gay Ugandan Faces Deporation from U.S.

Jim Burroway

April 8th, 2011

San Diego-area friends and supporters of Joseph Bokombe have launched a petition drive imploring a U.S. immigration judge to grant Bokombe’s request for asylum. Bokombe overstayed his cultural exchange visa, friends say, because he was afraid to go home.

Those fears are well-founded. LGBT Ugandans have been subject to successive waves of anti-gay vigilante campaigns in the press and F.M. radio over the past several years. Ugandan LGBT advocate David Kato was murdered just three weeks after winning a court case against one tabloid which posted his photo under a headline reading “hang them!” That’s not the only worry. The draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would impose the death penalty for homosexuality, remains a potent threat despite government assurances that the bill will not be voted on.

Under these circumstances, Bokombe’s friends fear for his safety should he be forced to return to Uganda.

[Awichu] Akwanya, a Ugandan native, said he believes Bokombe would face a similar fate. “Actually I don’t think even past the airport. They just get him and then put him in detention. In detention, he can get poisoned or [they will] hire some people in jail to kill him,” said Akwanya.

Those grim prospects led Hector Martinez to begin a petition drive to help Bokombe’s appeal for asylum. Bokombe volunteers at a church and for several local groups, including Mental Health America of San Diego County, which is the mental health non-profit Martinez works at. “He’s a part of our community and people care about him. He deserves to live freely,” said Martinez.

A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released this statement to KGTV television:

“Over the course of the last year, Mr. Bukombe’s immigration case has undergone extensive review by judges at multiple levels of our legal system. In those proceedings, the courts have held that he has failed to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States. ICE is now in the process of seeking to carry out the deportation order handed down by the immigration court.”

The petition currently has 258 signatures.

Gay Saudi Diplomat Seeks Asylum

Jim Burroway

September 12th, 2010

Ali Ahmad Asseri, the first secretary of the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, has told NBC News that he has asked for political asylum in the United States. He has reportedly informed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that Saudi officials have refused to renew his diplomatic passport after discovering that he was gay and close friends with a Jewish woman. He was questioned by a DHS official on August 30 after formally applying for asylum. DHS and Saudi officials decline to comment.

Without a diplomatic passport, Asseri has been effectively fired from his job and has no legal means of remaining in the U.S. In an email to NBC news, Asseri said, “My life is in a great danger here and if I go back to Saudi Arabia, they will kill me openly in broad daylight.”

Saudi Arabia follows Sharia law, which calls for the death penalty and/or lashings for homosexuality.

Showing Christ

Timothy Kincaid

July 21st, 2009

Christians speak of “showing Christ” to the world around you. Sadly, too often this is expressed in forms of self-righteousness and public condemnation of others. Frankly, I often think that if this is Christ that you are showing me with your arrogance, condescension, and careless condemnation of those whom you don’t think are as good as you, then I want nothing of him.

But some have found a Christ to show the world that is quite unlike the one whose primary purpose seems to be passing laws to impose religious adherence by non-believers. Their Christ is more interested in helping the needy, healing the hurting, and loving the loveless.

Such a Christ is observed in the actions of Christians in Worcester County, Massachusetts. They have become a haven of safety and help to gay men and women from around the world who are fleeing oppression and torture in their homelands. (Worcester Telegram)

For the past year, Hadwen Park Congregational Church has provided gay immigrants with food and money for clothes and rent, as well as spiritual and emotional support. Lutheran Social Services, which helps many immigrants apply for asylum, established a program to help gay immigrants apply for asylum.

Immigrants such as the Ugandan tortured for two days by men trying to get him to give the names of the patrons of his gay bar. Or the Jamaican who was beaten by crowds four times. Or the Lebanese man sent to the hospital with a broken neck.

The United States government allows those persecuted for their orientation elsewhere to see asylum in America. But few social service programs are available for these victims of brutality, and they are not allowed to work while waiting.

The church’s program is unique in the United States, church members believe; the Lutheran Social Services asylum program for gay immigrants is one of only a handful nationwide.

And theirs is no hand-off missions program designed to placate liberal guilt.

The church started by feeding the gay immigrants with its food pantry, then paying their rent and cell phone bills. Parishioners took immigrants on shopping trips for clothes and other essentials. Two parishioners offered to host two immigrants in their home. The immigrants started coming to the church, telling their stories, and connecting with people who don’t judge them.

Now the Christ of the Hadwen Park Congregational Church and Lutheran Social Services in Worcester, Massachusetts, is a Christ that the world could see much more of.

Couple Arrested In Gay Asylum Scam

Jim Burroway

January 7th, 2009

We’ve posted numerous articles on this web site detailing the very real dangers many gay people face around the world. Some seek asylum in the United States, fearing for their lives should they be forced to return to their home countries. For many of these people, these fears are justified. But asylum is not automatically granted, and immigration authorities are on the constant lookout for cases of fraud. Now those who genuinely warrant asylum may find their road made all the more difficult by this case:

A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday said Steven Mahoney did “aid and abet” an asylum application for a person described only as “G.V.” which made the false claim that G.V. was gay, and “that G.V. was afraid of being assaulted and maimed if G.V. returned to his/her home country.” The indictment mentions two other immigrants by initials: one who claimed to be gay and another who feared being tortured if returned to his home country. If granted asylum, immigrants are not deported. Court documents did not say whether any of the three immigrants mentioned received asylum.

Also indicted was Mahoney’s estranged wife, Helen Mahoney. Both are naturalized citizens themselves from Russia. They each face a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Steven Mahoney also faces up to a 10-year sentence if found guilty on a fraud count. Both pleaded not guilty.