Gay man fears deportation from Detroit to native Senegal

Supporters fear Michel Mendy's deportation to Senegal, where being gay is considered criminal, could land him in prison

By Karen Drew - Reporter/Anchor


A protest Monday outside the Immigration and Customs office in downtown Detroit is bringing attention to an interesting case.

A man is facing deportation and people say sending him back to his native country could cost him his life.

Michel Mendy has been active in the arts here in Metro Detroit. He has worked with singer Aretha Franklin and many others. He has lived in the area for 15 years on a visa.

His visa now is expired and he is facing deportation to his native Senegal.

That's not the whole story. Mendy has been openly gay for years, which is something his home country considers a crime. Supporters of Mendy say if he goes back to Senegal they fear he will be beaten, jailed or worse.

"He cannot go back to Senegal with any sort of stigma because they will kill him," said Mendy's friend Leslie Mathews. "So what we're out here doing is we're asking for support. We are asking that people would join our cause and free Michel Mendy, to call immigration, to call your senator, to call your congressman, to help us."

Friends and activists are fighting for Michel to be granted asylum in the U.S. so he could stay here and not face any possible prosecution in Senegal.

"To be deported tomorrow or the day after tomorrow is very heartbreaking because it's not like somebody who has been in and out of jail for issues. He's not a criminal," said Seydi Sarr, general secretary of the Senegalese Association of Michigan.

Mendy is awaiting a hearing to see if he will be granted asylum. He will remain held in Customs and Immigration custody until that hearing is granted.

According to Human Rights Watch, gays in Senegal who get caught often face losing their jobs along with abuse from police and other members of the community.

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