Italo Morales had lived in Hollywood, Florida for nearly ten years after he fled his native Honduras in 2005. Morales, now 27 years old is gay. He left Honduras nearly ten years ago, following his partner who also bolted from the country due to the violence against the small gay community that survives there on a daily basis.
As a country, Honduras can boast to being the murder capital of the world. The homicide rate is an alarmingly high ratio of almost one individual per every one thousand annually; earning this reprehensible label and nearly doubling its closest rival in this tragic classification, according to the United Nations. Venezuela stands at number two with a murder rate which is still at a chilling 0.5 persons per thousand. To put the above statistics into perspective, the United States has approximately one twentieth the total amount of annual homicides compared to Honduras, according to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report.
Over the past five years, nearly one hundred gay persons have been murdered in the Central American Country. But nobody knows exactly how many actual murders of LGBT individuals have been committed, as being openly gay only adds to the possibility of a death sentence causing most of those with that sexual orientation to live there in the shadows.
When Morales entered the United States ten years ago it was shortly after the US changed policy in 1994 to allow people to seek asylum based on their sexual orientation. Morales took advantage of the change in policy leaving his homeland and entering the U.S. He has been seeking legal asylum ever since and was allowed to remain here under the condition that he wore an ankle bracelet.
After his arrival he found work at a Colombian restaurant in the neighboring area and had no work-related problems reported. Over the past ten years he lived a quiet life as explained by his partner Santos Quintilla.
Quintilla reportedly told the New Times “Basically what his life consisted of was going to work and coming back home and maybe the occasional weekend outing.” He also told the publication that when Honduras constitutionally barred same-sex marriage as well as adoptions by same-sex couples that was personally enough to make him leave the country.
Italo left soon after he did seeking asylum and a better life. He also mentioned during the interview, which was given in Spanish that “People like Italo don’t do well in places like Honduras. They get beat up and sometimes killed.”
Violence against gays specifically has accelerated since a coup d’état in 2009 which led to the ouster and exile of then-president Zelaya. The coup directed a suspension of many civil liberties as well as the imposition of curfews. The torture and killing of persons living in Honduras, within the LGBT community vastly increased since the change in regime. It has been alleged that some of the murders have even been committed by the nation’s police.
Morales’s wearing of an ankle bracelet was the effect of a federal pilot program that was initiated in 2003 to diminish the ongoing problem of the nationwide overcrowding of prisons and the cost to taxpayers that went into the millions while ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) was holding undocumented immigrants who were awaiting asylum cases to be heard. The program continued and is still active today.
In Morales’s case, he was living what’s been termed “a regular life” when he was summoned to appear in Immigration Court this past March. The reason for the call was to check his ankle bracelet that appeared to be malfunctioning due to its battery running low. After his appearance in court, he was deported to his native country within a few days. News reports were sketchy at best for the reasons he was sent back to Honduras.
Right now, Morales is said to be in Mexico after journeying north in an attempt to re-enter the United States. He is trying to gather enough funds to acquire assistance for finding a way to get across the border, according to informed sources. Latest reports establish that at the time of the writing of this article, he could be found just south of El Paso, Texas.
But even if he does make it across, with or without help, he intends to continue his journey until he reaches his ultimate destination of Hollywood, Florida. However, when also interviewed by the New Times his lawyer explained that as an officer of the court, he’d have no choice but to hand him over to immigration officials if he came to his office.
But, the attorney believes that his client has a solid case. He was quoted as saying “It’s a very good case, according to case law,” and believes that if he can prove that it’s likely his client could face injury or death if again sent back to Honduras, there’s a good chance asylum may be granted. He also stated that proving those facts shouldn’t be too difficult.
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