24-Year Old Iranian Faces Deportation, Execution for Leading Protest for Immigration Reform
Mohammad Abdollahi has lived in the United States for twenty-one years and considers himself an American. But after participating in a sit-in for immigration reform, he now finds himself facing imminent deportation to Iran.
Washington, DC – Mohammad Abdollahi has lived in the United States for twenty-one years and considers himself an American. But after participating in a sit-in for immigration reform, he now finds himself facing imminent deportation to Iran. And because Abdollahi is gay, if deported to Iran, he could face execution.
Abdollahi came to the US when he was just three years old. After his father received a PhD at the University of Michigan, the Abdollahi family realized they had fallen in love with their new home and decided to apply for US citizenship. But due to a simple error in processing their immigration form – their attorney told them the fee was $20 less than it actually was – their application was rejected and they lost legal status.
Now twenty-four, Abdollahi has lived in the US nearly his entire life. “You don’t realize you’re any different growing up,” Abdollahi reflects. “Playing in the playground with all the other kids, you’re all the same. I was the same as everyone else.”
But when he finished high school and his friends left to go to college, Abdollahi was reminded of his limits as an undocumented immigrant when he was denied entrance into Eastern Michigan University despite qualifying credentials.
In the ensuing years, Abdollahi has worked actively to change policies that impact undocumented immigrants like himself who came to the United States as children and have lived here most of their lives.
On May 17, the anniversary of the historic civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education, Abdollahi led a protest in Arizona for immigration reform with four other civil rights leaders. The five staged a sit-in at Senator John McCain’s Tucson Office in attempt to bring attention to the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act), legislation that would enable anyone who entered the US before the age of 16 and who has lived in the country for five consecutive years to be eligible for conditional permanent residency. After obtaining a college degree or completing two years of military service, they would be eligible for a green card and to apply for citizenship.
Without the DREAM Act, this path would be otherwise unavailable to these youth. For Abdollahi, in lieu of passage of the DREAM Act, he would be unable to obtain a green card and faces deportation from the US. He would face execution if sent to Iran, where homosexuality is a crime punishable by death.
Michigan state representative Kim Meltzer, discussing Abdollahi’s situation, offered few condolences. “That’s an unfortunate scenario [and] I think it’s terrible you can executed for that, but how is that America’s problem?” Meltzer said undocumented immigrants like Abdollahi “have to go back to their country and fight for a democratic process — just like we in our country and we’ve fought for it and we’re fighting for it still.” Meltzer neglected to acknowledge that Iranians have been fighting for democracy for decades.
Abdollahi has literally put his life on the line in hopes of mobilizing support for the DREAM Act. He hopes that with his involvement, he will bring more attention to the DREAM Act, which has the potential to change the lives of many Iranian undocumented youth.
“It’s just not talked about, it’s taboo,” said Abdollahi regarding the Iranian community’s attitude towards the issue of undocumented immigrants. “There are a lot of undocumented Iranians, but because we don’t talk about it, we lose a lot of support... It’s considered very shameful.”
“The issue of legalization is different for the Iranian community than for other immigrant communities,” said Azadeh Ghafari, Coordinator of Outreach to the Middle Eastern Community for Dreamactivist.org. “Because Iranians cannot simply cross the border, most enter the country legally but many continue to live with the frustrations that come with lost immigration paper work, not having the funds to file the proper work, or simply falling out of status due to overstaying a visitor or student visa.”
To get involved and help ensure that young Iranians like Mohammad Abdollahi are able to lead normal lives in the US, you can help raise awareness and support for the DREAM Act. Click here to tell your officials to cosponsor the DREAM Act before it is too late.
Learn more about Abdollahi’s story.