Luis Garcia is coming home.
Luis was granted bail at his December 20 detention hearing held at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA. Nearly two dozen supporters from Basic Rights Oregon and Portland’s Central Lutheran Church drove to Tacoma to show their support for Luis. He also received 25 letters of support from community members, including his employer Marquis Mt. Tabor.
“Being granted bail is a testament to the strength of Luis’s case,” said his Immigration Attorney David Shamloo.
Luis returned home to Portland with his partner Sean Sexton after posting $8,000 bond, raised through a Go Fund Me campaign supported by 275 donors. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency opposed Luis’s bail.
A 32-year-old widowed gay man, Luis was taken into custody at his home by ICE on November 15 at 6 a.m. He was denied release by ICE despite his eligibility for bond and/or release in Portland, Oregon.
Luis is a registered nurse providing hospice care to seniors in Marquis Mt. Tabor. He has legally lived in the U.S. for the past 15 years.
If he is deported to his native Venezuela, it will be a death sentence for him as an openly gay man. Aside from having laws on the books criminalizing gay relationships, Venezuela will not provide him with the life-saving medications he needs to live with HIV. He has been against the oppressive government of Venezuela where opposition is not tolerated. His deportation will add insult to injury after being a battered and abused spouse at the hands of his late U.S. citizen husband.
“Venezuela is a very dangerous country today,” explained Luis’s long-time friend Vanessa MacKenzie. “My family is still there as is his. Luis’s sister was kidnapped two years ago. The residents are struggling to get adequate medical care and food. My mother has not been able to buy meat for three weeks. It’s an incredibly difficult place to live.
“It’s also politically untenable,” she added. “My cousin is a doctor at a hospital and he has been targeted by the government for attempting to provide medical care to Venezuelans who oppose [Nicolas] Maduro. He has a sworn oath to care for anyone who enters his hospital, but they attacked him. It would not be a safe place for Luis.”
Luis made his way to the United States at age 17, recognizing that he would not be safe in Venezuela as an out gay man. Traveling on a tourist visa, he visited family in Florida and then eventually made his way to San Francisco, where he began nursing school and received a student visa to stay in the U.S. He worked his way through college as a server, earned an Associate’s Degree and now is a Registered Nurse. In San Francisco, he met his eventual late husband. They moved to Portland when his late husband’s employer transferred him to its Oregon office. In 2013, they married legally in Washington state.
Marital bliss was short-lived, however, when his late husband became addicted to drugs and eventually lost his job. Luis too began to use, but chose to enroll in drug rehabilitation to get clean. After his rehab, Luis was reconciled to the fact that his relationship likely would not survive.
In March of this year, he returned to their Beaverton home and found his husband high and deteriorating. To save his life, he tried to remove the drugs from their home, but his late husband resisted and beat him. Luis called 9-1-1 and his late husband was arrested for drug possession. Two weeks later, the Washington County District Attorney opted to charge Luis as well, because he technically held the drugs in his hands as he tried to remove them from their home. He was eventually convicted of possession, but given bench probation or unsupervised probation because of his exemplary record.
Luis’s criminal conviction is being appealed.
After the arrest, Luis sought to begin again. He returned to work at Marquis, where he was being groomed for a promotion. He left his late husband, began dating Sean and started a new chapter seeking love and peace.
Luis’s deportation hearing will take place at a Portland-based immigration court in the coming months. Look for details on Basic Rights Oregon’s Facebook page.