A 50-year-old Californian is facing deportation to his birth country, Fiji, where he is at risk of violence and abuse for being a queer person.
Salesh “Sal” Prasad arrived in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident in 1978 and grew up in Modesto, California. Prasad had a troubled childhood, having suffered severe physical and sexual abuse as a young child. One beating even led to him losing his hearing.
Struggling with drug use and post-traumatic stress disorder in his teens, Prasad got involved with gangs. At age 22, he was convicted of second-degree murder after killing a person during an altercation. For his crime, he received a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 20 years.
After serving 27 years of his prison sentence, the state determined that Prasad was not a public safety risk and granted him parole. Officers purportedly recognized his rehabilitative work, which included leading support groups.
“I had worked so hard, and I was so proud to tell my mom that I was finally coming home,” he recalled.
However, on the day of his release on August 19, 2021, he was handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He is now detained in ICE’s Golden State annex in Central Valley, California.
Salesh Prasad is a survivor of abuse and now faces deportation to Fiji because CA's state prison system called ICE. Sal is an artist & wants to be reunited w/his family. @GavinNewsom must pass the #VISIONAct to #StopICEtransfers #FreeSal Make calls today: https://t.co/wd0axPLJ1E pic.twitter.com/AJDQrK8UZR
— Youth Justice Coalition (@YouthJusticeLA) February 16, 2022
ICE has maintained that while Prasad came to the U.S. as a child, he falls under President Joe Biden's Immigration Enforcement Priorities for deportation due to his past criminal conviction. Despite active support from advocates, his requests to fight his case outside of detention have so far all been denied.
Even when his mother died of COVID-19 in September, ICE declined to temporarily grant him freedom so he could attend her funeral.
Lawyers representing Prasad have argued that he should be set free since state authorities have considered him safe for release. Lawyer Maddie Boyd said Biden's priorities have not resulted in compassionate policies, particularly for cases like Prasad’s.
The lawyers further argued that the Convention Against Torture should protect him from deportation as there is evidence of police violence and attacks on LGBTQ-plus people in Fiji.
Prasad’s gang tattoos from his youth also pose safety risks in Fiji as they could make him a target of local authorities. His lawyers also cited the fact that he is Indo-Fijian (Fijian people of Indian descent), an ethnic minority that has historically been discriminated against in the country.
So far, such pleas have been rejected by the government, leaving him with limited options aside from appeals.
“If I’m deported, I won’t survive. I won’t make it in Fiji. There’s no protection there for me. There’s no support,” he was quoted as saying in a call from the detention center. “I’d be forced to be somebody I’m not. I don’t want to hide again. I should be able to love who I want to love.”
Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity Human Integrity has set up an online campaign on Change.org, urging California Governor Gavin Newsom to prevent Prasad’s deportation via a Governor’s pardon.
Featured Image via Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity Human Integrity