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Feds refuse to give up their quest to send Ugandan refugee home

The cover illustration for "Open Secrets."

The eleven-year battle of one Ugandan immigrant to win asylum in Denver hit a roadblock last week when an attorney for the local office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) appealed his case for a third time.

Earlier this month, Westword brought you "Open Secrets," the story of a refugee named Peter who recently won asylum, thanks in large part to a paperwork error made by an ICE detention officer. Peter, who did not want his name printed for fear of retribution, was a human rights activist in Uganda in the late ’90s and says he was imprisoned and tortured because of his opposition to the ruling regime. When he escaped to America, his initial application for asylum was rejected.

But just before Peter was to be deported in 2004, he discovered that ICE had violated its own confidentiality regulations by sending paperwork to the Ugandan embassy indicating that he had been denied asylum. He feared he would be in grave danger if he returned home, because Ugandan officials were known to torture suspected political opponents.

Based on this fear, Peter’s case was reopened, and this September, Immigration Judge David Cordova granted him asylum. For a while, it appeared that Peter’s long fight for safety was over.

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Last week, however, ICE attorney Dani Page appealed the judge’s decision, basically arguing that Cordova “failed to address” all the evidence the feds presented to combat Peter’s case. Specifically, she didn’t think the judge paid enough attention to a letter from Lynn Sicade, acting director of the State Department's Office of Multilateral and Global Affairs. The letter quoted an unnamed embassy official in Uganda, who said that “in his two years at the embassy, he has not come across any record of the Ugandan government taking action against an individual because they had attempted to claim asylum in another country."

Page could not be reached for comment, and neither could Peter, who is now living in Aurora, according to ICE. But Peter’s lawyer, Jim Salvator, says the appeal puts Peter in limbo, since the government’s briefs in the case won’t be filed for several months.

In other words, it’s back to the drawing board for Peter, as he faces another round of expensive legal battles -- and government officials that seem determined to send him home. -- Lisa Rab

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