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Before Tsegai fled Eritrea and made the months-long journey to the United States to seek asylum, his image of this country was colored by what he’d seen on TV.

America, he thought, was the kind of place where people could be welcomed in with nothing and manage to turn their lives around.

But when the 30-year-old arrived last year on Christmas Day, officials cuffed his wrists and ankles and led him to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility, where he spent eight months detained. Tsegai asked The Times to identify him only by his first name out of fear of persecution.

“I didn’t expect it, so it was a very terrifying experience,” he said through an interpreter.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

Tsegai sits in the doorway of his room while staying in a church on Sept. 22, 2020 in San Bernardino County. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)
Tsegai sits in the doorway of his room while staying in a church on Sept. 22, 2020 in San Bernardino County. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

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By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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