November 7, 2017 at 6:00 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Center Global celebrates fifth anniversary

Dorah, a lesbian asylee from Uganda, speaks at a reception that celebrated Center Global’s fifth anniversary.
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Dorah was living with her husband in Uganda when he found out that she is a lesbian.

Dorah on Saturday told the Washington Blade he beat her, did not allow her to leave their home and told her she had to change her sexual orientation. Dorah said her husband nearly killed her before she applied for a U.S. visa and flew to Dulles International Airport where she requested asylum.

Dorah told the Blade she was held in detention in Virginia for a month until the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition secured her release.

“I’ve never been a criminal in all of my life,” she said during a reception at the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community that celebrated the fifth anniversary of its Center Global program. “I knew I was a lesbian, but I was not a criminal so I had never been chained. I did nothing wrong.”

Center Global has provided assistance to Dorah, who asked the Blade not to publish her last name, and more than 200 other LGBT asylum seekers from around the world since it formed in 2012. Dorah is among the dozens of people who attended Saturday’s reception.

“When I came here it was so welcoming,” Dorah told the Blade.

Stan — a gay man from Zimbabwe who came to the U.S. in 2015 — said Center Global provided him with access to legal services and networking opportunities.

Stan, who also asked the Blade not to publish their last name, pointed out he is the executive assistant to the president of an HIV/AIDS service organization. He also said his asylum application is pending.

“I’m happy,” Stan told the Blade. “I get to live as a gay man freely for once in my life. [It is] something that I never thought would happen to me.”

D.C. ‘values haven’t changed’ under Trump

Saturday’s reception took place nearly a year after President Trump’s election.

The Trump administration in September announced it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has allowed roughly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. and obtain work permits. Trump in August endorsed a bill that would, among other things, reduce the number of people who are able to legally immigrate to the U.S. each year.

The White House is moving forward with plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and has called for cuts in federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities” that protect undocumented immigrants. Immigrant advocacy groups and their supporters since January have filed numerous legal challenges to Trump’s executive orders banning citizens of a number of predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

“D.C. is a microcosm of migration in general,” said Center Global Chair Matthew Corso during the reception.

Terrance Laney, deputy director of the Mayor’s Office for LGBTQ Affairs, said Center Global helps “folks who come into D.C.” He added Mayor Muriel Bowser and her administration continue to support LGBT asylum seekers and other immigrants in the nation’s capital.

“Our values haven’t changed,” said Laney. “When someone comes into Washington, D.C., whether you’ve been here five generations or five minutes, you’re entitled to shelter. And that’s one thing the mayor really, really stands by because we’re a beacon of hope not only for folks outside the U.S., but around our region.”

Stan is a gay man from Zimbabwe. He spoke at Center Global’s fifth anniversary reception on Nov. 4, 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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

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