Mother of dead gay man to sue U.S. government over illegal deportationAround the World, Online Only, Top Highlights Friday, December 13th, 2013
For four months, 21-year-old Nelson Javier Avila-Lopez was brutally tortured in the infamous Comayagua prison in Honduras before perishing in a fire that killed 357 other prisoners. His body was so badly charred, officials were forced to use DNA testing to identify his remains. Now, his mother, Ana Lopez plans on suing the United States and Immigration and Customs Enforcement – known simply as ICE – for illegally deporting her gay son back to the same country he fled from for fear of his life.
Nelson, who fled Honduras after gang members identified him as the culprit behind two murders that they themselves had committed, also knew that his life was in danger in a country that brutally executes members of the LGBT community. So he fled. But when he applied for asylum in the United States he missed his court hearing because his lawyer did not tell him when to show up in court, his mother says; an immigration judge deported him in March 2010 because he failed to appear.
ICE arrested him and put him in deportation proceedings. A new attorney filed a motion to reopen his case, placing an automatic stay on his removal; defendant Garcia was the deportation officer. Lopez claims they deported him anyway and now she has sued. (Honduran authorities quickly detained Nelson when he arrived back in his homeland, draped in his ICE shackles, without so much as a charge.)
“In the last four months of Nelson’s life in this prison, Nelson was brutally tortured, including being held down to be tattooed on each arm – one by the Maras and the other by a rival gang – forever marking him as a traitor for all inmates to see,” his mother says. Nelson, as young and brave as he was, refused to tell his mother the horrible conditions he encountered, but asked for money from her so that he could pay off the gangs so that he could use the prison bathroom.
Lopez seeks damages for negligence, wrongful death and due process violations. She is represented by Joseph Huprich of Pasadena, Calif.
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