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Advocates were informed today that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will deport Pastor Steven Tendo, a Ugandan asylum-seeker who faced torture for his human rights and electoral activism, back to his home country where he could face persecution, torture, attack, or death. Pastor Steven has been sent to the Alexandria Staging Facility in Louisiana, and scheduled for deportation on Thursday, September 3.

Denise Bell, the researcher for refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International USA said:

“Pastor Steven fled his home country as he was persecuted for supporting voting rights in response to government repression and corruption. We should be celebrating his bravery and welcoming him to this country, not sending him back to danger. Pastor Steven has suffered grave human rights abuses in Uganda – he was detained, tortured and arrested dozens of times, forced into hiding, and ultimately forced to flee. He has looked for safety here, and instead ICE chooses to send him to almost certain death.

“Pastor Steven’s dream is to make a difference in peoples’ lives – to teach middle school or high school, and to change lives. He cannot live his dream if his life is cut short because of ICE’S inhumanity. Pursuing this deportation demonstrates ICE’s continued disregard and recklessness for those in its custody. ICE’s actions are particularly cruel considering Pastor Steven was scheduled for surgery to address the loss of vision he experienced in ICE detention on Thursday – now the date he is slated to be deported. We are alarmed that Pastor Steven was initially transferred to the Alexandria Staging Facility in Louisiana, where numerous staff and detained people have tested positive for COVID-19, and where whistleblowers have reported blasting detained people with air-conditioning to artificially lower their temperatures and clear them for departure. As a diabetic, Pastor Steven is at particularly great risk of complications should he contract COVID-19 there.”

Amnesty International USA is calling on individuals to contact ICE to halt Pastor Steven’s deportation.

Background and context

Steven Tendo arrived in the U.S. in December 2018 at the port of entry at Brownsville, Texas and has been detained at the Port Isabel Processing Center in Los Fresnos, Texas since. An immigration judge wrongfully denied his application for asylum despite ample evidence that Pastor Steven would face persecution, and committed key procedural irregularities in the process – and the Board of Immigrant Appeals responsible for reviewing that decision failed to make a critical legal determination before rubber-stamping the denial.

Pastor Steven had stated previously if he were returned to Uganda: “They would eat me like hot cake. They would even kill me if they got to know that I am on the way going back if they got to know my whereabouts.”   The principle of non-refoulement in international law prohibits countries from deporting individuals that would face persecution, torture, or death if returned.

His rapidly deteriorating health, and life-threatening risks should he contract COVID-19, warrants his release on humanitarian parole. ICE has the discretion to halt Steven Tendo’s deportation and to release him from detention now.

Read more:

44 Members of Congress Urge DHS to Free Pastor Steven (August 20, 2020)

Urgent action: free asylum seeker at risk of deportation (June 30, 2020)

Amnesty International USA campaign: Free People from ICE Detention

Media contact: Mariya Parodi, [email protected]