PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Immigration and LGBT advocates are joining forces to rally behind a married gay couple. One of the men was detained by ICE; he’s seeking asylum because of severe LGBT discrimination in Mexico.
Robert Paul Frame stood inside of the William Way Community Center, holding a photo of his husband, Jose Ivan Nunez.
“It’s very emotional when I go up there with him,” says Frame, who married Nunez in 2016.
Nunez was detained by Immigration agents on January 31, 2018 when the couple went to USCIS for an interview pursuant to their I-130 petition, where in an American citizen seeks to gain legal status for an alien relative. Nunez, who is undocumented and has been under a deportation order since 2010, was arrested during the interview. The couple believes that Nunez has a strong case for asylum; it is dangerous in Mexico for LGBT people. Nunez’s sister, who is a lesbian, is in hiding in Mexico fearing for her life. They claim other people have been killed for their sexual orientation.
“I was the one pushing Ivan to go through with this process. I said ‘let’s do this the legal way,'” he says with regret. “Who that is not legal is going to go through this process?”
Immigration advocates say this is not the first time ICE agents have nabbed an undocumented person during a USCIS interview. They believe the action discourages undocumented people from seeking legal status.
“Our community was jumping through all the hoops to keep our family together,” says Miguel Andrade, spokesman for Juntos, an immigrant rights group. They stood alongside GALAEI, William Way and other LGBTQ leaders calling the detention of Nunez an attack on immigrant, LGBT and minority communities.
“Marriage was just not enough for queer people, in particular people of color in this country,” says Nikki Lopez, executive director of GALAEI-a queer Latinex social justice group. “This case underscores the importance of intersectional work.”
They’ve put together a petition to support Nunez who’s in prison at the York Detention Center. So far, they have more than 700 signatures.
“This is about radical love,” says Lopez. “This radical love is going to save our communities.”
“We have to confront the hate coming out of this White House,” says Chris Bartlett, who runs the William Way Community Center.
Frame’s advice to undocumented individuals:
“I wouldn’t go through he process right now,” he says, “if this is what’s happening.”
In response to a request for comment on Nunez’s case, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials issued the following statement:
“On Jan. 31, 2018, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation officers arrested Jose Noe Nunez-Martinez, 37, a citizen of Mexico, unlawfully present in the United States. He was previously removed from the United States on August 18, 2010. He’s currently in ICE custody pending immigration proceedings.
ICE deportation officers conduct enforcement actions every day around the country, including Pennsylvania, as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to uphold public safety and border security.
ICE continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. However, as ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan has made clear, ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”
Click here to view the Petition in support of Nunez.