“They took me by force and one of them came up to me,” Milton Amezquita-Guzman tells the Washington Blade. “He stuck his penis inside of me and he shouted ‘you are a whore. I will kill you.’”
After being disowned by his family for being gay, 27-year-old Amezquita-Guzman took a job as a clothing merchant in the city of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Earlier this year, local gang members began extorting him for money. The men repeatedly called him a “faggot piece of shit” and a “whore.” One day in March, they ganged up and forced him to perform oral sex on them.
The incident, which marked the third time he had been sexually assaulted, left Amezquita-Guzman traumatized. He decided to flee Guatemala shortly afterwards, traveling up through Mexico and finally crossing the Rio Grande into Texas.
But little did he know, his troubles were only just beginning.
Agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained Amezquita-Guzman in May. He was sent to a privately-run detention facility operated by Corrections Corporation of America in the state of Georgia where he filed a claim seeking asylum.
“He could have been released on bond, and he wasn’t,” Amezquita-Guzman’s lawyer, Patrick Valdez, tells the Blade. “My client’s not a danger. He doesn’t have a record in his country or in this country. His record is impeccable. And he had a legitimate asylum application and he had to litigate his case in custody the whole time. That was unfortunate.”
While in detainment, Amezquita-Guzman says he continued to suffer additional mistreatment at the hands of detention facility personnel, including being barred from speaking with his lawyer. He was also denied any psychological treatment in the aftermath of the sexual assaults.
“It’s assumed that the inmate is not telling the truth or is exaggerating,” Valdez told the Blade. “There’s no way to complain. There’s no regulatory mechanism to manage these kinds of challenges that these detention centers have.”
Indeed, when Amezquita-Guzman went to a judge for help, he was told “there is no problem.”
Valdez says he has worked with a number of other gay asylum seekers from Latin America who have experienced similar abuses. According to the Blade, violence against the LGBT community has resulted in the deaths of nearly 600 people in the Americas between Jan. 1, 2013, and March 31 of this year.
“[T]he brutality that they face when they are confronted with homophobia is just as brutal as it has ever been,” Valdez says.
After being put through the wringer for nearly half a year, Amezquita-Guzman was finally granted asylum by a new judge last month.
“I was thankful for the judge who made the decision,” said Valdez. “She made the right decision. The facts was [sic] very compelling. She listened. She made her own inquiries and she listened to the case and made her own notes and she was conscientious in that regard.”
Amezquita-Guzman says he’s now focused on moving forward and building a new life for himself.
“I suffered from a mountain of things,” Amezquita-Guzman says. “I suffered in my country of Guatemala.”
h/t: Michael K. Lavers/Washington Blade