December 23, 2014 at 11:29 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Gang rape prompts gay Guatemalan to seek asylum in U.S.
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, gay news, Washington Blade

Milton Amezquita-Guzman is from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (Photo by Chrishonduras; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A gay Guatemalan immigrant who recently moved to D.C. said he fled his homeland earlier this year after he was gang raped because of his sexual orientation.

Milton Amezquita-Guzman, 27, told the Washington Blade last week during a telephone interview that men he described as gang members in the city of Quetzaltenango where he sold clothing and other items in March extorted money from him because he is gay. Amezquita-Guzman said the men called him a “faggot piece of shit” and a “whore” before they forced him to perform oral sex on them.

“They took me by force and one of them came up to me,” he told the Blade as he became emotional. “He stuck his penis inside of me and he shouted ‘you are a whore. I will kill you.’”

Amezquita-Guzman said he had been raped twice before prior to the March incident. He fled Guatemala in March while in disguise shortly after the third alleged sexual assault took place.

He traveled through Mexico before passing through Ciudad Miguel Alemán in the state of Tamaulipas and crossing the Rio Grande into Texas.

Agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained Amezquita-Guzman in May. They sent him to a privately run detention facility in Georgia operated by Corrections Corporation of America from where he pursued his asylum claim.

“He could have been released on bond, and he wasn’t,” Amezquita-Guzman’s lawyer, Patrick Valdez, told the Blade as his client listened. “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.”

Amezquita-Guzman told the Blade that he experienced additional mistreatment and discrimination while at the Georgia detention facility that included personnel not allowing his lawyer to visit him. Amezquita-Guzman said the conservative judge who handled his case did not adequately respond to his complaints.

“He said OK, there is no problem,” Amezquita-Guzman told the Blade. “It is that we have no control over Corrections Corporation of America. We do not control this.”

Valdez told the Blade that his client while in ICE custody also did not receive psychological treatment in the aftermath of the sexual assault he experienced. He said detainees who seek such care are “immediately suspect.”

“It’s assumed that the inmate is not telling the truth or is exaggerating,” Valdez told the Blade, noting ICE facilities often lack adequate resources. “There’s no way to complain. There’s no regulatory mechanism to manage these kinds of challenges that these detention centers have.”

Sexual violence common among gay migrants

Amezquita-Guzman spoke with the Blade less than a month after President Obama announced an executive order on immigration that would, among other things, allow an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S.

Valdez told the Blade he has worked with other gay asylum seekers from Latin America who have experienced sexual exploitation and other abuses.

Ender Manuel Martínez, an LGBT rights advocate from El Salvador who is seeking asylum in Mexico, claims guards at a detention facility in the Mexican state of Chiapas demanded “sexual favors” from him in exchange for better food during his incarceration last fall. He said he endured additional sexual harassment and anti-gay discrimination at a second detention facility outside of Mexico City to which he was transferred.

Julio Campos Cubías of Migrantes LGBT, a group that advocates on behalf of LGBT migrants, told the Blade in October during an interview in the Mexican capital that many lesbian and trans women smuggle drugs into the U.S. for drug cartels because they do not have the money to pay smugglers — known as “coyotes” in Mexican Spanish — who bring them across the border.

Ricardo Baruch, another Mexican LGBT rights activist, told the Blade during a separate interview at the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Intersex Association (ILGA) World Conference in Mexico that a number of the trans sex workers who work in cities along the U.S. border are from Central America. He said drug cartels sometimes force them to sell drugs.

A report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights released last week indicates anti-LGBT violence claimed the lives of nearly 600 people in the Americas between Jan. 1, 2013, and March 31 of this year.

“There has been advances, especially in Mexico in terms of gay rights,” Valdez told the Blade. “Gay marriage is legal in Mexico City and there’s a perception that now gay people have some degree of greater safety. Maybe they do to a certain extent. But the brutality that they face when they are confronted with homophobia is just as brutal as it has ever been.”

‘I suffered’ in Guatemala

The judge in Amezquita-Guzman’s case last month granted his asylum request.

“I was thankful for the judge who made the decision,” said Valdez. “She made the right decision. The facts were very compelling. She listened. She made her own inquiries and she listened to the case and took her own notes and she was conscientious in that regard.”

Amezquita-Guzman told the Blade he would like to pursue a degree now that he is in D.C.

His sister supports him, but his mother and the rest of his family have ostracized him.

“I suffered from a mountain of things,” Amezquita-Guzman told the Blade. “I suffered in my country of Guatemala.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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