What’s in a Green Card?

Green Card Front

Green Card Front (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many immigrants have a green card story, but they all don’t have the romantic ending of Green Card, the 1990 film starring Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell. Nonetheless, they are stories of struggle and accomplishment. A green card is a permit that allows foreign nationals to live and work in the United States permanently.  Obtaining a green card is often the first step toward gaining U.S. citizenship. My own father was a green card holder, and he waited 21 years before applying for citizenship!  21 years!? Though he’d never admit it, I think that he made the move when he finally decided that he would not be permanently returning to his native Krete.  It’s a little sad, isn’t it? For him, obtaining U.S. citizenship meant giving up the dream of ever residing in his birthplace. His reluctance to acquire U.S. citizenship made me think of green cards in a new way. Green cards are symbolic of the transition between a previous life and the hope of building a better one.  But that transition, that liminal space and time, is interesting, whether it lasts 3 years, or 21.  That’s why I was intrigued when I heard about the book, Green Card Stories (2011).  It features the stories and narratives of 50 diverse immigrants from around the globe. The individuals in the book explain how they obtained their green cards–through means such as employment, family, asylum, visa lottery, and extraordinary ability. By focusing on individual stories in a collection, the authors humanize the experience of becoming an immigrant in the U.S. and remind us of the complexity, beauty, and pain of life.

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