Eduardo* and Antonio* met while working on a Cuban development mission to Venezuela. Eduardo was a dental hygienist; Antonio was an electrician. They fell for each other, but they didn’t feel safe in Venezuela or Cuba, where they both had been persecuted for being gay.
To pursue safety and freedom, the couple fled to the United States.
Evangelina Lopez, Florence Project DOJ Fully Accredited Representative on our Detention Action & Response Team (DART), met Eduardo and Antonio at an ICE detention center where they were held in prison conditions while seeking asylum. DART gives “Know Your Rights” presentations to detained immigrants, conducts individual intakes to learn more about each person’s unique case, and assists them in building legal cases to represent themselves before an immigration judge.
Eva worked closely with Eduardo, whose hearing came first. He won. But Antonio remained detained for several more months. The COVID-19 pandemic hit at that time, and he became sick. The Florence Project partnered with the law firm Perkins Coie to seek Antonio’s release on humanitarian parole. We eventually succeeded, and the couple was reunited outside of detention, in freedom.
They are building new lives together. Antonio was recently certified as an electrician and Eduardo has applied to dentistry schools.
They are building new lives together. Antonio was recently certified as an electrician and Eduardo has applied to dentistry schools. They experienced snow for the first time during a trip to Utah.
And now, as legal permanent residents, the couple can travel outside the U.S., so they took a romantic trip to Paris.
“Another dream is complete” Eduardo said of the vacation. He sent us photos of the best part – a marriage proposal.
Being a part of this couple’s journey has been so special. They have overcome so much: the violence they faced before they came to the U.S., as well as the oppression and serious injustices they endured in the U.S. They were jailed for seeking asylum, including extended confinement in locked cells and insufficient access to nutritious food. They represent the resiliency of the LGBTQ community by refusing to let unjust institutions deter them from seeking rights that all people should be entitled to – safety, freedom, and the opportunity to marry.