A gay Honduran man held in custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for seven months has been denied release despite legal challenges to his imprisonment.
Lawyers for Darwin Garcia Portillo claim his detention violates a federal court order, according to reports by Out. Portillo, his boyfriend Oscar Juarez Hernandez, and Portillo’s younger brother all fled Honduras to avoid violent persecution of queer people there. ICE detained the group in March as they crossed the border in San Diego. Officers for the immigration force separated the group, sending them to different detention facilities. A judge later granted Hernandez’s release, as well as legitimate asylum. He’s now taken up residency in Colorado with a family that has agreed to sponsor all three men for citizenship.
Portillo and his younger brother, however, remain in custody. This comes amid a course change by the Trump Administration which has restored procedures for asylum seekers. The Administration had previously ordered anyone trying to cross the border should be locked up, even if they had a right to do so under US and international law. Furthermore, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled in September that ICE should consider paroling detainees on a case-by-case basis.
Besides his separation from his boyfriend, Portillo’s detention also poses an obstacle for his younger brother, who is a minor. Federal policy states that minors must be claimed by a legal guardian to be released from ICE custody. Portillo is currently being held in Louisiana, while his younger brother is imprisoned in Texas.
“He’s been denied parole, with no justification,” David Bennion, Portillo’s lawyer, told ABC News. “Clearly he’s not a flight risk. He has a very strong network of support, which is where he’ll go. He’ll join his life partner, who already has asylum.”
Bennion also says that Portillo has been targeted by anti-LGBTQ gangs in his holding facility. “Darwin has been targeted by other detainees who don’t like being locked up with gay people,” he added. “Darwin, and other LGBT detainees, they can’t go to the bathroom by themselves; they have to take showers together to protect themselves, so they won’t get beaten or raped.” Bennion and Portillo’s sponsorship family have also expressed fears of discrimination in court, as Louisiana has a long history of staunch anti-queer legislation and public attitudes.