BROOKLYN, NY (Workers World Today) — A plethora of government statistics document the insufferable plight of our illegal immigrants—charts, columns, tables, numbers, percentages, but we the public don’t see that woman working below the minimum wage, confronted with a brick wall since due to her illegal status is powerless to complain to any governmental body. We don’t see that man toiling away a grueling twelve hours a day at a neighborhood deli. We don’t see that man sharing a cramped room in an apartment.
Grant Kennedy, in The Power of the Green Card – They Did What They Did for a Green Card!, pushes away those cold, passionless statistics and lets us see faces and the struggles that confront them as they arrive on our shores with the dream of obtaining a green card.
“With all the …problems surrounding illegal immigration … everyone seems to have a voice in the debates except for the estimated 11.3 million illegal immigrants that are now living in the United States…their road from illegal status often ends with the prize of a green card or the fate of being caught, imprisoned and deported to their homeland.” These are the words that open Grant’s remarkable book about a subject that has engulfed the nation.
Accosting people in our city’s streets demanding to see IDs and deporting family members who don’t possess required documents to constitute as the author states, the “American Nightmare,” not “The American Dream.” The foundation of every society is the family unit—mother, father, son(s) and daughter(s)—but their stability is severely interrupted when the government sees fit to deport the head of the household leaving the children “without a stable family.” The men and women who journeyed from their home countries who populate our cities and the pages of this book are assigned fictional names that are idiosyncratic of their struggles.
Grant’s wife Gayle relates her story of her mother who “migrated to work temporarily as a domestic housekeeper for a rich white family [and] lived out-of-status.” Living twenty-four hours a day in this insecure status she didn’t qualify for basic government benefits, e.g., no unemployment insurance if she woke up one day without a job, no public housing with affordable rent, no food stamps that would provide free food for her family, no primary healthcare so she could make doctor appointments. “Her main focus was to stay employed or else she would be left homeless.”
Over the years, many successfully obtained their green cards but yet “there are some unfortunate ones were either deported or are still living here twenty-five to thirty years later out of status…many…are living like nomads because over time many have lost cultural and family ties to their homelands while living here with no rights.” This husband-wife co-author team decided to collaborate on this book interviewing people who “compared their undocumented living circumstances…to the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness near the promised-land for forty years without getting to have a chance to drink of the milk and honey.”
Mr. What it Takes was compelled to enter the dark shady underworld of a business marriage where he would pay a specifically designated dollar sum to purchase a bride. At first, the illegal transaction worked smoothly. But this liaison blew up in his face “as the time fast approached to go the interview for his green card [when] it was necessary …to get …acquainted with his business wife so they could present themselves as a genuine couple.” Now began the silent treatment when she failed to return his phone calls since “she was a crack head who was strung out and dysfunctional.” Her daily dose of drugs did the trick enabling her to manifest a normal demeanor for the interview. Notwithstanding the inherent dangers of associating with drug dealers, he was compelled to cross the threshold of a crack house to get her drugs. “He would advise today’s illegal aliens to pursue whatever avenues they can to get a green card because it is still a better bet …than to go back to their home countries.”
Ms. Persevere and a friend befriended the manager of a pier where cruise ships docked scheming to become stowaways. Ultimately getting married to Prince Charming, they rented an apartment with an unsavory reputation of being a hangout for illicit drug trafficking. “They agreed that it was time for her to look seriously about getting her green card… Prince Charming who was a valid green card holder…decided that it would speed up her visa process if he was to get his citizenship. However, he was denied citizenship.” This was due to a prior drug conviction and an order was issued for his deportation. “Ms. Persevere’s world was coming apart…she was an undocumented alien…with three kids and her husband who was her only hope of getting her green card was now himself illegally in the country….He was stopped on the road while driving a truck… and sent to an immigration detention facility… and deported.” With perseverance, hence her fictional name, she ultimately got her green card.
This is not a book where all the people we meet live happily ever after, people who brainstormed with their beloved families and made the decision to say goodbye to their native countries where they were law-abiding citizens to live in a new country as fugitives. Yet, they manifested an extraordinary degree of determination, perseverance, intelligence, ingenuity, courage, and creativity. Their journey “is often fraught with extreme difficulties, tragedies and for the lucky ones, triumph in overcoming the obstacle and living the ‘American Dream’ by obtaining the coveted Green Card.”