Gay Ugandan Refugee Freed From Detention

A gay Ugandan asylum seeker has been freed from detention in California after a campaign by his friends.

Joseph Bukombe had been held at an Otay Mesa, San Diego detention facility for nearly two years.

He needed $20,000 bail and this was raised following a campaign to ‘get him home for Christmas.’ Friends are now raising money to fight for his asylum claim.

“It’s like a dream come true,” Bukombe told 10News.

Eight years ago, he arrived in San Diego from Uganda and came out as a gay man but was afraid to go home. He said his work visa expired several years ago.

He says that during the time he has lived in California, a mob beat one of his friends to death in Uganda.

“I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to go back and die,” he said.

LGBT Ugandans have come under increasing threat from the state and society following the introduction of the notorious ‘Kill the Gays’ bill into the parliament.

In early 2010, Bukombe was stopped for a DUI after eating Jell-O at a birthday party.

“I knew I was driving, so I was trying to be careful. I didn’t know the Jell-O had alcohol in it,” he said.

Bukombe was detained and faced deportation. He hired an attorney, but could not pay for him.

After languishing for several years, Bukombe discovered a $20,000 bail had been set early in the process.

Hector Martinez, a friend of a friend, started a campaign supporting Bukombe, including a petition drive.

“We think either paperwork got sent to the wrong address or the attorney never informed him,” said Martinez.

Martinez raised $6,000 and took out a loan for the remainder of the bail.

“Thanks to all the 70 donors who contributed to bail for Joseph Bukombe who was released from Otay Mesa last night,” the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle wrote in an email to friends and supporters on Christmas Eve.

“He enjoyed his first meal with friends in San Diego at a Kenyan restaurant with friends and wanted to express his deep appreciation to everyone who helped to secure his release after two years in prison,” Ogle wrote.

“Joseph and his close friend Hector Martinez will be attending Midnight Mass at St. Paulís Cathedral tonight in San Diego,” Ogle said.

However, Bukombe still faces deportation hearings.

“It’s clear I will die,” said Bukombe of being returned to Uganda. “I’m scared for the future, but at least I have hope.”

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement have told 10News about Bukombe’s case:

“Over the course of the last year, Mr. Bukombe’s immigration case has undergone extensive review by judges at multiple levels of our legal system. In those proceedings, the courts have held that he has failed to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States. ICE is now in the process of seeking to carry out the deportation order handed down by the immigration court.”

Supporters are also pushing a congressional bill that could allow him to stay. Bukombe’s supporters say that they are hopeful because of the Obama Administration’s new policy toward LGBT immigrants who face persecution or the threat of death in their homeland.

Related articles:

3 International LGBT Causes to Support at Christmas

Contradiction in How Obama Admin Treating LGBT Refugees

Dutch Relax Rules For Gay Binational Couples, Gay Refugees

Picture of Joseph courtesy SDGLN


Silvia G.
Silvia G6 years ago

Happy for him now that he is free, hope he will be fine from now on.

Christine Stewart

I hope he will be okay.

Mary L.
Mary L6 years ago

Sue H. Honestly because he can be. He's gay, his visa is up and he's black and there are a lot of people who pay lip service to equality regardless and then act in direct opposition to those words. It's the old, "I'm not prejudiced, but..." routine.

The US has gone back in time to the 1900's. Internationally there seems to be a huge fanatical race to see who can run the furthest back in time.

Hatred breeds more hatred. Intolerance breeds more intolerance. The reverse is true as well.

I've noticed the more play a story on strangers helping someone gets the more strangers help each other.

Conversely, Now that news is 24 hours a day, and world wide there are a great deal more stories about spousal abuse and violent murder. People who murder their whole families and commit suicide. The amount of copy cats is growing all over.

I guess they need to publish "boring" stories about couples divorcing who put the children first. Parents who get along and don't let the kids have a buying parent.

Next maybe stories where dad isn't dumber than the paint on the wall? It could happen and it could change things.

I guess

Fred Krohn
Fred Krohn6 years ago

Any LGBT from Uganda, Nigeria, Cuba, or other nations with lethal prejudice against LGBTs should automatically get a refugee visa. Ditch ICE and restore the INS! Ban DHS and TSA!

Holly Lawrence
Holly Lawrence6 years ago

YES, so hope asylum is possible ...Why must people go through such absolute horrors to be who they are ...

Linda W.
Linda W6 years ago

Anyone who has taken the time to read knows the horrors that are inflicted on the LGBT inhabitants of that part of the world. Asylum for Joseph!

Joe R.
Joe R6 years ago

It's time that the United States condemns the sinful treatment of gays around the world. (It's also time that the US cleans up its own act!)

Barbara DeFratis
Barbara DeFratis6 years ago

Well, hopefully and prayerfully, his supporter will succeed in gaining him asylum here.

William K.
William K6 years ago

How sad. It's good that he's out of prison, but it is very unfortunate that his freedom means he will likely deported back to his home where his welcome will likely consist of getting beaten to death by a mob.

Sue H.
Sue H6 years ago

Why should this man, an asylum seeker, be deported to certain death?