Coming Out in Uganda Was a Death Sentence. The U.S. Border Was a Trap.

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10/18/2019

Margaret didn’t know what was going to happen when she approached the bridge between Juárez and El Paso, but she knew she couldn’t wait anymore. Six months since fleeing her home after being raped and repeatedly beaten for the crime of being a lesbian, the 20-year-old Ugandan was barely holding onto the last shreds of hope. Since arriving in Juárez in March, Margaret had waited, waited to get a number from Grupo Beta, the government organization that’s frequently accused of corruption as it oversees the unofficial “line” tens of thousands of asylum seekers unable to pay their bribes are forced to wait in for months in order to cross the bridge, waited inside the walls of the Buen Pastor shelter deep inside one of Juárez’s most dangerous neighborhoods, waited for someone, anyone to help. So when New Mexico-based lawyer Nancy Oretskin came to the Buen Pastor that September morning and suggested bypassing the line and trying to cross, she quickly agreed. The plan was simple: Oretskin would accompany Margaret and her friend Kodi, a political refugee from Cameroon, to the bridge shortly after noon that day, when fewer pedestrians would be crossing, giving Oretskin a better chance to make their case.

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