Gay Asylum Seeker Illegally Deported to Torture and Death, Mother Says
LOS ANGELES (CN) - The United States illegally deported a gay asylum-seeker to months of torture and death in a Honduran prison, his mother claims in court.
Ana Lopez sued the United States and Immigration and Customer Enforcement "Officer Garcia" for the death of her son, Nelson Javier Avila-Lopez, in Federal Court.
Lopez claims her son had a stay of deportation, through counsel, but ICE deported him anyway to Honduras, where he was "thrown, without formal charges, into the notorious Comayagua prison ... where he suffered unspeakable torture for nearly four months alongside the sadistic criminals that he sought to escape."
Her son died in Comayagua prison on Valentine's Day 2012, in a fire that killed 357 other prisoners with him, his mother says.
Lopez, who is under temporary protected status, says her son was 17 when he fled to the United States after seeing the Central American gang, Mara 13, kill his friend and another man. Nelson fled Honduras in 2008 after gang members told authorities that Nelson was behind one of the killings. Nelson feared for his life, she says, because gays in Honduras face persecution and death.
Nelson applied for asylum in the United States but missed his court hearing because his lawyer did not tell him when to show up in court, his mother says. An immigration judge him deported in March 2010 when 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.
ICE knew Nelson had a stay of deportation when his case was reopened, his mother says. But on Oct. 19, 2011, ICE deported him anyway.
Upon arriving at a Honduras airport in ICE shackles, Honduran authorities arrested him without charge and threw him into Comayagua prison, his mother says.
"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 but brave as he was, refused to tell his mother the horrible conditions he encountered, but asking for money from her so that he could pay off the gangs so that he could use the prison bathroom."
Nelson burned to death in prison just before his 21st birthday.
"Nelson's charred body was found clinging to another inmate. His mother flew back to Honduras to claim the body, but it could only be identified through DNA testing," she says.
Lopez seeks damages for negligence, wrongful death and due process violations.
She is represented by Joseph Huprich of Pasadena.
Illegal deportations are not unusual in the ICE system.