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Man With HIV Set to Be Deported to Country With No Medicine

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is set to deport an HIV-positive asylum seeker to Venezuela, a country facing a catastrophic economic crisis and a severe shortage of medicine, according to the Miami Herald.

Ricardo Querales was told that he had until the end of February to voluntarily leave the country during a routine visit to ICE headquarters in Miramar, Florida, the Herald reports.

Querales was granted asylum in 2004, but then this protection was revoked in 2011 after drug-related crimes. He has been eligible for deportation ever since, according to the Herald, but he has been allowed to stay in the country until recently.

“You are sending me to my death!” Querales reportedly told the immigration official. “This is anti-human rights. In Venezuela, there is no medicine and every day someone with AIDS disappears.”

ICE has not publicly commented on the case.

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Querales’ experience resembles that of an increasing number of undocumented immigrants who have seen routine check-ins turn into nightmare mandates. Many of these immigrants are being deported to countries that pose a demonstrable risk to their safety.

But Querales’ ordeal has an added element of injustice: if he goes to Venezuela, he may die from health complications, according to experts who spoke with the Herald.

“There is a very serious crisis in Venezuela, and if he has HIV and there are no drugs there, he should ask that they not take him out of the country for humanitarian reasons,” immigration lawyer Marcial de Sautu told the Herald.

Venezuela has an 85% shortage of medicine overall and a 90% shortage of critical medicine for illnesses like cancer, according to NPR. Many hospitals across the country lack electricity and thousands of doctors have fled the country amid the dire circumstances.

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Further, the Venezuelan government has been blocking NGOs from supplying medicine and bolstering the health care system, NPR reports.

People suffering from HIV/AIDS face an especially dire situation. More than 200,000 people had HIV/AIDS in 2012, according to UNAIDS, and around 63,000 were receiving antiretroviral medicine at the time. Today, nearly all of that medicine has vanished, according to NBC.

"Eighty percent of people with HIV in Carabobo are not receiving treatment because of the shortage of antiretroviral medicine," Eduardo Franco, an HIV/AIDS advocate, told NBC. "The lack of medicine is worrying, but there’s also food shortages. People are dying from hunger because they can’t afford to feed themselves."

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Querales fears that if he is deported, he will no longer receive the medicine that has allowed him to live.  

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Now working as a hairstylist, he’s been in the US since 2003 after fleeing political persecution in his home country. He was granted asylum status in 2004, the Herald reports.

Querales says he became addicted to drugs to cope with depression and loneliness after being diagnosed with HIV in 2006, according to the Herald.

Two non-violent, drug-related arrests and two stints in detention later, Querales’ asylum protection was revoked and he became eligible for deportation. That outcome was ultimately deferred for years as Querales became sober and complied with ICE demands.

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But now ICE is pushing for his deportation.

Querales says that he will fight the order and is planning to file for an I-246 form for temporary deferral of deportation, the Herald reports.

“I am a reformed citizen, a decent worker who made mistakes in the past and I am no longer on drugs,” said Querales, who has been clean for five years. “They told me they would not deport me because there are no medicines for my treatment in Venezuela.”