Here's a story that highlights a lot of problems with America's immigration system.
Joseph Bokombe is a gay man from Uganda who came to the US several years ago on a cultural exchange visa. His visa soon expired but he stayed, the ICE says they've reviewed his case and courts have reviewed his case, and the government could deport him soon. I haven't found a media report that specifies whether he's applied for asylum or for another visa.
We've been hearing a lot about being gay in Uganda lately, and one of his friends, another gay Ugandan immigrant, told local news he doesn't think Bokombe could get past the airport without being detained. A local paper published a list of gay activists in the country with the words "Hang them" recently and a bill that would punish some instances of homosexuality with the death penalty has been debated.
Everyone who wants to live in the US should have the right to pack up their bags and go. But that's not what the majority of Americans want and that's not where American immigration policy is going, as the Obama administration has actually increased the number of deportations from the final year of the Bush administration. Even looking at comments on local TV coverage of Bokombe's case I see lots of Americans saying that, since his visa ran out and he broke the law, he should be sent back to Uganda. Who cares what happens to him there - it's his own fucking fault.
What's heart-breaking is that his supporters have been trying to keep him in the country with an online petition that the ICE will probably not even read. The petition includes information showing his value to their community - his work at a local mental health nonprofit, volunteering at a church, love of karaoke - which is important to most humans but unimportant in the American immigration system. Even the liberal organizations like Immigration Equality aren't willing to call for commitment to the community to be seen as a reason to stay in the United States, opting to hold up the people who establish long-term, conjugal relationships as the people who definitely should be allowed to stay with community commitments presented as nothing more than testaments to good character.
The US deports people back to Haiti, a country that has still not recovered from a devastating earthquake last year, only to send them to prison where people are dying of cholera. The ICE plans to deport 700 Haitians this year, with the full knowledge of what will happen to them when they go back.
Saying that Bokombe faces death if he goes back to Uganda, unfortunately, will not be enough to break the rules of the American immigration system. It's a system that kills people and has for years; speaking truth to power when power already knows what it's doing accomplishes nothing.
I know what it's like to want to stay in a country and to jump through hoops not knowing if anything will actually work. It's stressful and unfair, and reporting back to French people and telling them how their country's immigration system works elicited shocked responses, but that was about it. And I didn't have the pressures Bokombe faces of both a substantially decreased standard of living and substantially increased restrictions on his autonomy as a gay man.
There's a petition at Change.org, although I seriously doubt those petitions actually accomplish anything, especially in situations like these. But it may be worth passing along anyway since a big part of the problem is that the voting public in most countries has absolutely no clue how their own immigration system works.