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Dane Solomon is No Longer Afraid
By Lisa Biagiotti & Channtal Fleischfresser

In 1997, Dane Solomon went to the movies alone in Georgetown, Guyana, as he always did. At 11 p.m., he crossed the street to catch a bus home when two men asked him to spare some change. When Solomon declined, they punched him in the stomach.

"This faggot came onto us," the men told arriving policemen, Solomon remembers. In Guyana, only four types of people walk alone at night: policemen, thieves, prostitutes and "anti-men" (homosexuals). Solomon spent a sleepless night in the corner of a crowded jail cell.

Seven years ago, he fled this life, leaving his native country and family, never to return. In the years since, he suffered a stroke, beat brain cancer, and coped with HIV, poverty and the uncertainty of being undocumented in New York.

On Feb. 20, 2008, Solomon, 36, walked out of the immigration office in Lyndhurst, N.J., completing a one-year asylum application process. Weeping, he flipped open his white cell phone and called his mother, Claudette, in Guyana.

"I feel liberated," Solomon said. "The day in which I received asylum, I called up friends of mine and said, 'I'm as legal as Barack Obama.'"

But Solomon is not typical of those seeking asylum.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, United States priorities shifted from providing a safe space for others to protecting its own citizens. Today, immigrants fleeing persecution are applying for asylum in fewer numbers as deportation rates are increasing. Heightened immigration controls have made it harder for immigrants to obtain visas, and many who are eligible do not apply for asylum because they fear being deported if their application is rejected.

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