My Name is Mohammad and I am Undocumented
“Get in line,” they like to say, without realizing that many of us were at some point in this infamous line. My family immigrated to the United States from Iran when I was three years old. At the time my dad was accepted to a university on a student visa to get his doctoral degree. After three years, he completed his studies and applied for something called Optional Practical Training, essentially allowing him to extend his stay for twelve months. During that time, he would be able to continue to work and study in the same field he received his PhD in.
While still under the OPT program, he secured sponsorship from a job and applied for a change of status from OPT to an H1b visa. Rather than do this themselves, my parents thought it would be better to put something this serious into the hands of an attorney. However, due to not knowing exactly where to go, they contacted the university and were referred to the international student center where there were immigration attorneys on hand. The school’s immigration attorney handled all of the paperwork, my parents paid the required fee, and they were told everything was set to go, or so they thought. Now mind you, up until this point, we all still had legal status; we were still “in line”.
Eventually a letter came from INS stating that the application was rejected because the fee enclosed was not the right amount. Apparently, INS had raised its fee the previous year, and it was now $20 more than we were instructed by the attorney to provide. Doing what any normal person would do, my parents immediately hired an attorney who was independent of the university. The new attorney, however, turned out to be no better than the free one provided by the school. Rather than file an appeal with INS and provide a check for the correct amount, the attorney chose to bicker back and forth with the school attorney as to why they were even advising students on such matters. The attorney failed to inform my parents that they had only 60 days to appeal the decision; the attorney failed to take any measures to protect our status or to inform us of what could be done to protect our status. And so we lost legal status.
If the immigration system doesn’t work for someone who tries to do everything the right way, then how does it treat those who were never even given the option of doing things the right way?
I now find myself in a constant state of limbo. I am currently enrolled in the social work program at school; I have always volunteered within the local community and have been offered several jobs I have had to unfortunately decline.
I can’t see myself living anywhere else other than America. All of my childhood memories are from America, and it is the only home I have known. Apart from that, I also happen to be gay, and if one is at all up to date on their current events, then I am sure you know how unfriendly a place Iran is for anyone who happens to be LGBTQ. Iran is one of the countries that not only punishes people for being gay but also kills them. Mahmoud Asgari, 16 and Ayaz Marhoni, 18 are two teenagers who were recently killed for no reason other than being gay.
“To execute people simply because they are gay or have had gay sex just isn’t acceptable in the 21st century,” he exclaimed. Their comments follow the public hangings of Mahmoud Asgari, 16, and Ayaz Marhoni, 18, on 19 July in Mashad, provincial capital of Iran’s northeastern Khorasan province, on charges of homosexuality.
In addition to the outright intolerance towards homosexuality, it is the view of the Iranian clerics that the cure to homosexuality is a sex-change operation.
“Approval of gender changes doesn’t mean approval of homosexuality. We’re against homosexuality,” says Mohammed Mahdi Kariminia, a cleric in the holy city of Qom and one of Iran’s foremost proponents of using hormones and surgery to change sex. “But we have said that if homosexuals want to change their gender, this way is open to them.”
Going back to Iran is not even an option for me, and honestly, the only difference I see between myself and the next American is $20, two strong cases of legal malpractice and a piece of paper.
~Mohammad, DREAMer from Michigan
We were so inspired by the DREAMers’ courage in coming out last week that we will continue to feature their stories through the end of March. Please show your support by signing the petition to pass the DREAM Act. Thank you.