Just weeks after the Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) started a petition on Change.org that attracted 11,500 supporters, refugee Miguel Caceres has finally been released from what advocates have called a "prolonged" and "unjust" detention.
In July 2011, a U.S. immigration judge declared that Miguel, who is gay and was beaten, tortured, and raped in Honduras because of his sexual orientation, qualified for refugee status. But even though he had asylum status and there were no grounds to hold him in detention, Immigration and Customs Enforcement refused to let him go and even wanted to deport him to an alternate country, even though Miguel had no ties to other countries and there was no legal basis to do so.
And after 57 days behind bars, Miguel was finally able to walk out of the detention center and finally continue with his life. “I am very happy,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to be able to get out [of detention]. There’s nothing like freedom. Thank you to everyone who supported me.”
Miguel Caceres Juarez fled Honduras after being targeted for abuse and persecution since age 12 because he is gay. Gang members tortured, raped, and beat Miguel on multiple occasions. His own brother harassed and beat him and threatened to decapitate him. He came to the United States because he feared he would be killed. Miguel was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a county jail as the U.S. government sought to deport him back to Honduras.
On July 12, 2011, a U.S. immigration judge determined Miguel was a refugee and granted him withholding of removal, a form of immigration protection for people who have suffered or fear persecution in their native countries. But ICE refuses to release him from immigration detention even though he has won his case and the government attorneys are not appealing the decision nor seeking his removal to any alternate country.
Miguel should be able to celebrate his new-found safety and freedom in the United States, but as long as he remains detained, he continues to be at risk for the same human rights abuses he suffered in Honduras. The ICE immigration detention system is broken and continues to put vulnerable immigrants like Miguel at risk. Throughout his detention, Miguel has suffered harassment, abuse, and threats because of his sexual identity.
ICE has no lawful grounds to detain Miguel, whose abuse continues every day he remains in custody.