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A Gay Immigrant Reaches for a DREAM

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This evening in Arizona, a young, gay man is literally putting his life on the line.

In today's Arizona, the fact that Mohammad Abdollahi is willing to speak up would be cause enough for concern. Abdollahi, who has been in the United States since the age of 3, risks arrest and deportation simply by being visible. Under the state's new, anti-immigrant law, his mere presence means risking his continued residency in the only country he has ever known well enough to call it 'home.'

Add to that, however, the fact that Abdollahi (who currently lives in Michigan) is gay, and originally from Iran, and you can begin to understand the true courage behind his current sit-in at the office of Senator John McCain.

If he is arrested, the 24-year-old faces deporation to one of the most notoriously homophobic countries in the world. Lesbians and gays are routinely tortured, and even executed, in Iran. There is little doubt that, if he is forced to return there, Abdollahi will, too, face unspeakable persecution simply because of who he is.

And yet, he is not deterred.

As journalist Todd Heywood first reported today in the Michigan Messenger, Abdollahi is risking his very life in order to press for passage of the DREAM Act, a critically important piece of legislation which would give young, undocumented people like him a path to citizenship and an opportunity to remain in the United States.

The young people who would benefit from the DREAM Act's passage were largely, like Abdollahi, brought to the U.S. by their parents. They have called America home for the majority of their lives, but their futures are uncertain because they have been unable to obtain legal residency. (In Abdollahi's case, his application for residency was rejected because his family mistakenly paid $20 less than the required fee.)

So today, Abdollahi and three other young people brought their stories to the Tucson office of Senator McCain.

But, as Heywood reports, Abdollahi's action "is far from just an act of civil disobedience. As a young gay man, he faces deportation to a country where he knows neither the language nor the culture -- and worse, where homosexuality is punished with torture and executions."

Simply put: Abdollahi, if arrested, will likely be deported to a country where gays and lesbians are put to death.

That is why the DREAM Act - which was recently included in a Senate immigration outline for comprehensive immigration reform - is so important to so many immigrants, both gay and straight. It is, quite literally, the difference between building a future in the United States or spending the future in a place where they must fear for their lives.

"[Abdollahi's case] is certainly a strong argument for why the DREAM Act should be passed as part of comprehensive immigration reform," Immigration Equality told Heywood.

It is also, the group noted, a clear example of the stake the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement has in ensuring that Congress tackles humane, comprehensive immigration reform soon.

"As LGBT people, our community certainly understands what it's like to be singled out because of who we are, or what we look like," the group said. "There's a real danger as [anti-immigrant] fervor begins to spread."

Abdollahi hopes his action will spur everyone - regardless of who or where they are - to join the fight for reform.

"He believes this could mobilize people to take action," his friend Priscilla Martinez of One Michigan, said.

Taking that action, for Abdollahi and others, increasingly means the difference between life and death.