The night that an anti-gay mob burned a man to death on a street corner in Togo, Hafizou Issifou knew he had to flee his homeland, where homosexuality is illegal. The news came from his sister, who texted him a picture of the victim: I think it was your boyfriend, Razak, she wrote. Then Issifou heard that his uncle wanted to kill him as well. He hid in a friend’s house for a year until he received a U.S. tourist visa.
Issifou arrived at JFK airport on March 6 and asked for asylum. Authorities sent him to Elizabeth Detention Facility in New Jersey — where he slept in a room with 43 other detainees for five and a half months, working in the kitchen for a dollar a day, not able to go outside.
A volunteer attorney explained to Issifou that he was eligible to apply for parole under Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy. He applied in May, but was denied a month later without an interview or an explanation.