A few weeks ago, a friend and fellow organizer brought to my attention the case of Wasington Coelho Ribero, a 27-year-old Brazilian immigrant who is a gay man living with HIV in a detention facility in Miami. This young man arrived in the U.S. when he was only 12 years old. He was the victim of an uncle back in Brazil who had molested him from age 10 to age 12. Since he arrived at Krome Detention Center four months ago, his health has declined significantly. He went from a healthy viral load count to what witnesses to his health condition are calling "falling apart due to medical neglect."
Like many other LGBT youth, Wasington's family disowned him when he came out of the closet. I can only imagine what that meant to him. As a young man, I was petrified of coming out, because I wasn't sure what my family would do. Had they kicked me out, the only clear path for me would have been homelessness. Without immigration papers, I wouldn't have known which programs to seek or what to do. My worst nightmare has come to fruition in Wasington's life.
Now Wasington is in a detention center without the proper care for his medical condition, and his condition is worsening. According to a petition calling on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director John Morton to release him immediately, he has developed sores on his feet and white spots on his entire body.
As a queer Brazilian immigrant to this country, I am ashamed that the United States would allow such a horrific event to take place. The detention system in this country is abusive at best, but in this case it is inhumane. Wasington is having his human right to medical care, access to his loved ones, etc. denied to him. What's the government's answer to his plight? Leaving him in a facility that doesn't have any way to care for his medical condition.
A few months ago we celebrated the 1969 Stonewall upraising, which many see as the birth of the LGBT movement, through Pride events all over the country. More recently we celebrated Spirit Day, when many of my friends changed their Facebook pictures to purple and many people wore purple to work and school to oppose bullying and show solidarity with LGBT youth. What many people don't know is that our immigration system has a long history of homophobic practices, and LGBT immigrants are subject to different set of rules. The lack of immigration reform and the presence of discriminatory laws such DOMA put us in a very vulnerable situation where our immigration status can never be resolved. Many of our friends are able to overcome their immigration problems through marriage, but we can't.
Wasington is one of the many immigrants who get lost in the maze that the immigration system has become. I call on immigrant and LGBT advocates to demand that ICE director John Morton do the right thing and release him immediately. Tonight Wasington will go to sleep again without the proper medical care, afraid of deportation and becoming weaker every minute. But tomorrow he can be out. With your help, your participation and your voice, he can be released, this time to a community that fought for him and will love him for who he is. Please sign his petition and call the numbers listed here.
By Felipe Matos