March 3, 2021 at 9:41 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Gay asylum seeker in Mexico enters U.S.
Estuardo Cifuentes at the offices of Resource Center Matamoros in Matamoros, Mexico, on Feb. 27, 2021 (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A gay man from Guatemala who the Trump administration forced to pursue his asylum case in Mexico arrived in the U.S. on Wednesday.

Estuardo Cifuentes — who had lived in the Mexican border city of Matamoros since his enrollment in the Migrant Protection Protocols program in June 2019 — and a group of other asylum seekers with active MPP cases were tested for the coronavirus before they boarded a bus that drove them over the Gateway International Bridge. Cifuentes and the asylum seekers disembarked at the main bus station in Brownsville, Texas, which is two blocks from the port of entry.

Cifuentes shortly before 9 p.m. EST sent the Washington Blade a picture of himself standing in front of a sign outside of the port of entry that reads, “Welcome to the United States of America.”

Cifuentes asked for asylum in the U.S. because of the persecution he suffered in Guatemala due to his sexual orientation.

He ran Rainbow Bridge Asylum Seekers, a program for LGBTQ asylum seekers and migrants in Matamoros that the Resource Center Matamoros, a group that provides assistance to asylum seekers and migrants in the Mexican border city, helped create. Many of the program participants once lived in a migrant camp near the Gateway International Bridge over the Rio Grande that connects Matamoros and Brownsville.

The Biden administration in January suspended enrollment in MPP.

The first camp residents with active MPP cases entered the U.S. on Feb. 25. The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday said it has “been processing approximately 100 people” a day in Brownsville.

Cifuentes on Saturday said during an interview at Resource Center Matamoros’ offices the U.N. Refugee Agency had told him he would be able to enter the U.S. on April 30. He told the Blade on Wednesday before he arrived in Brownsville that UNHCR called him and told him he had an hour to get to the camp to begin the process that would allow him to enter the U.S.

Cifuentes plans to remain in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley from where he will continue to pursue his asylum case.

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

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