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Please write up an academic summary for both readings. Your academic summary for these two pieces should now be longer than four sentences. The new piece we are adding this week to your academic summaries is the author’s tone. How does the author sounds in their language? Is it formal or informal? Is it scholarly? Is it humorous or sad? Is it furious or angry? I attached both readings, an example of an academic summary and directions.2 pages, a page for each reading.
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How To Get Your Green Card In
America
Until last year, I was one of 4.3 million people at the
mercy of the legal immigration system, waiting for
the chance to stay in the U.S. for good.
Sarah Thankam Mathews
Posted on November 22, 2015, at 10:07 a.m. ET
Pete Gamlen for BuzzFeed News
When we arrive in North America, I have never yet crossed a street by myself.
I’ve spent the last 14 years in Oman, a sliver of the New Middle East where,
for all its malls and modernity, transit as a girl meant being driven in a car by
my mom or walking in blistering heat holding my father’s hand. I am two
weeks past my 16th birthday, but as my boots slip and slide on icy asphalt, it
feels like learning how to walk all over again.
The coats we bought in Oman are laughable, unlined scraps of wool and
corduroy that the wind tears at like a Rottweiler. The temperature on the 22minute walk to the Indian Embassy is -9°C, which is 17°F, which is about 73
degrees colder than anywhere I have lived in my short life. I instantly reevaluate my Judeo-Christian conception of hell as a hot place.
My father’s ears are visible in the distance, an angry boiled red. Eyes watering
from the cold, I think, I can’t go on, I can’t, I’m going to die, I can’t do this,
but we have 10 more blocks to go before we can be anywhere warm, so I suck
it up, which is an American phrase that means I must do the thing I think I
cannot do. I walk faster and faster, overtaking even my dad, and cross my
first street at an almost-run, half expecting traffic to roll my body into cartoon
flatness, my heart juddering like mad.
The first night in America, I look up restaurants to get dinner from, and
decide on a place called Chipotle. I see the people in line behind my dad flip
their eyes upward as he strains to understand the menu, how it all works. It is
the era of Bush junior, of men who look like my father getting stopped and
questioned for two hours when they attempt to travel by airline, of women
who look like my mother getting ignored by the sales assistants at J.C. Penney
when they try to buy real winter coats.
Back at the apartment, we sit cross-legged on rental carpet and share the food
— burrito bowls, they’re called. They are delicious. My back is to the radiator,
and I feel warm and full, and happy that we have one another.
On my first day of high school in Palatine, Illinois, I can’t figure out my
locker. American teenagers fill me with fear. These creatures my own age,
allegedly, but bleached and lip-glossed and wearing clothing that fits so
differently from my own, occupy space with such force and ease. I am a little
turtle with my brown face and overstuffed backpack, swerving to avoid my
classmates in the hallway.
I’m asked, “Do they have, like, schools where you come from? Do they have
malls? Is Oman, like, a village in India?” I spend most of my lunch hour on
that first day trying to explain my visa status, my legitimacy in pursuing
public education. I’ve rehearsed the speech with my parents ad nauseam, so I
know the jumble of letters almost by heart. My family and I am here under
H-4 visa status, as dependents on my father’s work visa. We applied for our
green cards, hopefully we’ll get them soon.
I try a thing called tater tots. I get a C- on my test in English, which was
always my best subject before, and a hard lump begins to form in my throat.
At the day’s end, a kind boy (Chinese-American, first generation) helps me
open up my locker. I take the bus home, exhausted by the day’s trials,
crossing streets like I’ve done it all my life.
My father, who had a job in Oman where he was beloved by superiors and
subordinates alike, can’t connect with his co-workers. For the first time he
isn’t bringing in business, and starts worrying about losing his job — the job
all of us are dependent on for visas. My sister and I skulk around the house.
Sometimes she bursts into tears at random, inopportune moments, refuses to
explain why. My mom and I ask her if she is getting bullied at school; she says
no, and I can’t tell if she is lying. Our individual pain makes us all opaque to
each other.
Our first Thanksgiving passes us by. We eat a modest, untraditional meal, just
the four of us. No turkey. We are thankful for one another and for a roof over
our heads. We are quiet. This cold, wide country has stretched us all out to a
thinness.
My mother, who cannot teach or work as a dependent on a work visa, stays at
home all the long winter months. She stares at her ESL textbooks gathering
dust and says, “Maybe we never should have come.”
“Maybe we should go back,” she adds, and I, who have spent my entire life
speaking with respect and deference to my parents, explode with incoherent
rage.
There is a before to immigration; not all of
you dies to be reincarnated in the new
country.
A couple of hours later, my dad tries to make me come out of the bathroom,
where I have fortressed myself, and apologize. I refuse.
“Do you know why we came here?!” he bellows at me through the sliver of
open door. “Do you know the kinds of lives Amma and I had? Great jobs,
good salaries, our own people all around us! Do you know why we are
sacrificing? For you! To get an education in good schools, for a change, for
you both to go to college in America! All of this, this has been for you!”
The words dissolve me into quiet, fill my head with darkness. There is a
before to immigration; not all of you dies to be reincarnated in the new
country. The old life, good and bad, rattles inside you like broken gadgetry.
Family, careers, beach picnics with lifelong friends, knowing we belonged, the
ritual of shopping and shawarma: These are things my family and I have left
and will never get back. Because my parents want their daughters to get a
good education, to be respected as equals, and to be able to walk down a
street by themselves without fear.
courtesy of Sarah Mathews
And so, humbled, I decide: I will make good. I try to catch up to the American
system, these classes that my sister and I joined in the middle of the school
year. I argue with my guidance counselor when she tries to dissuade me from
taking Advanced Placement classes. I study how other girls dress and beg for
an allowance, car rides to Woodfield Mall. I learn to fill in Scantron bubbles
correctly, to kiss boys while preventing them from moving their lips below my
collarbone.
When a girl in my history class hears my accent — with its long A’s, its medley
of British-, Indian-, and Arab-tinged English — when she hears my
articulation of the word “can’t” as “cunt” and chews me out for it, I make my
first, angry choice to become more American. If I get taken more seriously
with a nasal Midwestern accent, I decide, I will cultivate one. We start going
to a mega-church. I find the spectacle and Jesus rock distasteful, but am
warmed by the kindness church folks show my parents, their Indian accents
and brown skin notwithstanding. It’s kindness that seems out of place in the
frosty northwest suburbs of Chicago, where I frequently see chinos and
Chico’s–appareled folks skate their eyes over my mother and father with
curiosity or disdain.
But I betray my parents in small ways, too. I get a boyfriend. I make friends
with the stoners and baby goths as well as the AP kids. I join after-class
things. I tell my parents I’m at after-class things when I’m actually with the
boyfriend. The accent is natural now.
I ride in a friend’s red car, speeding through beautiful, manicured suburbia
with duck ponds and stone houses, the wind flipping through my hair, and in
that moment, I feel unutterably happy and free for the first time in so long. I
remember my cloistered, shuttered life in Oman, and think, This is America
like all the movies and I’m here, I’m here.
In my living room, a few months shy of 18, I watch the television as a man
walks up to a podium in Grant Park and says, “My fellow citizens, I stand
before you.” I’m shooed out of the room, I’m weeping that hard. From the
doorway, clutching my ribcage and breathing in small gasps, I watch this
black man with a white mother, who grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia, whose
name is fucking Barack, take the oath to become president of the United
States, and joy and disbelief make stars and constellations within me.
Maybe, just maybe, I’ve underestimated America.
I cross my fingers for the green card, my permanent residentship status, to
arrive before college starts, so I can possibly get in-state tuition or financial
aid. We’ve been here for years, after all, paying our fair share of taxes.
It doesn’t arrive. I get accepted to college, as an international student. I go.
Madison, Wisconsin, where I have made my choice to stay for the next four
years, is a slender, beautiful isthmus whiter than its winter snow. I still can’t
work and get paid because of my visa, and I always feel aware that money is
tight at home, with my college tuition, the accelerated mortgage, the lawyer’s
fees for the green card, the one salary. It stings when my college friends make
quips about me obviously shopping only in the sales section. I say nothing
when a white friend talks about going to an Alpha Kappa Alpha party where
there were only folks of color, and how uncomfortable it felt to be the only
white person in a room.
I confide my fears — of having nothing on my resume when I graduate, of
deportation, of the general precariousness of having my whole family’s
presence in this country contingent on my dad’s job — to my best friend as we
stagger out of a house party. He gets down on one knee in the lobby and says,
“If you need a lavender marriage to stay in this country, Sarah Mathews, I’m
your man.” The sweetness of that memory is something I savor for years.
I take classes. I scour web directories for scholarships I might actually be
eligible for. I try a thing called a Twinkie. I learn to ride a bike. I fall in love.
I am inching up on 21 now, and my parents grow worried about what will
happen to my visa status when I get there. Go see your university’s
international affairs office and ask, my dad tells me. Worst-case scenario, you
can transfer to a student visa, he says. In the international affairs office, I am
told by a nice Midwestern lady that I cannot be a dependent past 21, and
because my family filed for a permanent residentship, which indicates intent
to stay, I likely will be denied a student visa.
“But what does that MEAN?” I ask, air painful in my lungs. “You should talk
to a lawyer,” the lady says. “They’ll know more than me, but it means you
probably can’t stay here in the U.S. after you turn 21.” My world goes inky
black and screeches to a halt.
“But you’re here,” a friend says, disbelievingly, over terrible, rock-like bagels.
“You’ve been here. You’re not an — illegal. You’ve been here for years.”
Twenty-three days before my dreaded 21st birthday, I get the notification that
my family’s application has progressed to the final step, that they’ve opened
the quota to include my priority date. In English: I’m getting authorized to
work, and the green cards are coming. In three months. Three. Months. The
word joy becomes a failure of language.
The cost for all four of us, just to do our medical checkups and have the
lawyers submit them, is 25,000 American dollars, not coverable by insurance.
Two and a half months later, I’m deeply unprepared for the headspin and
heartbreak of the notification in the latest immigration bulletin, which says
that the government has “retrogressed the priority date.”
“But what does that mean?” I sob over the phone to my parents.
Visa retrogression means the government closes the quota of waiting
immigrants that was opened earlier. No more green cards, until they see fit.
But here’s the pewter lining: The authorization to work came through, giving
me the right to live and work for pay in this country for one and a half years
more, with the slender possibility of renewal. I am lucky, really. Relatively
speaking.
At the marrow of it, it is really my relative luckiness that rusts my soul, makes
me pissing-on-the-subway levels of crazy. The unbelonging and the
uncertainty never quite stop aching, but I have a college education, am now
able to work, and my family is here with me. I have the humility to realize
how that stacks up against large swaths of the rest of this country’s
immigrants, against those who are desperate to come in, against the kids
from South and Central America riding the roofs of trains into this country to
try to find their mothers, wearing shirts that read I HAVE AIDS to keep from
getting raped.
At the marrow of it, it is really my relative
luckiness that rusts my soul, makes me
pissing-on-the-subway levels of crazy.
So I keep living my life. Luckiness dogs me. I always feel a tenderness toward
middle-aged men who drive cabs because I see my father in them, and see his
possible fate. I call them “Uncle” or “Sir,” and ask how they are. They tell me
about talking to their families once a week; they talk about their jobs in the
old country as doctors or engineers or business owners. They tell me about
learning to make good.
My family is invited to Thanksgiving dinner by the neighbors down the block,
the first time it’s not just the four of us. We say grace over the beautiful,
excessive meal together, white and brown faces alternating around the table.
We watch the turkeys being pardoned on TV. I’ve never heard of such a thing.
My neighbors explain it: There are two turkeys that compete, Caramel and
Popcorn, and both are pardoned by the president, and get to live on an estate
in Mount Vernon.
My dad jokes, “But what about the turkeys on tables all over the U.S., the
turkey we just ate?”
I am walking around Madison talking politics with a friend who says, “We
can’t have amnesty because all these people just need to learn to come here
legally,” and I laugh so hard, so scornfully, that I slip on the steps of the state
capitol and crack my face open on the sidewalk.
I move to Washington, D.C. Three of my friends from before America make a
trip to visit me. Together, we take selfies in front of the White House, the
Washington Monument (“The Bill Clinton monument,” my friend Karn
corrects me), and the Lincoln Memorial. At that final stop, I stand before the
momentous effigy of the American president I admire the most, and we read
the carved words together.
Tears suddenly melt their way down my face, surprising me, alarming my
friends. I don’t try to explain, really. It’s the beauty of the ideals Lincoln wrote
about and the potholed road of the reality leading toward them. It’s because I
realize that I love this country deeply, even though it has never loved me
back.
Seventeen days later, I walk out of a bar and check my phone to see my dad’s
missed call from three hours ago, to see this text from my sister: “Oh my god.
call home.”
My mind stops. It jumps to death, cars smashing into bone, every health
problem in my family’s history extrapolated to its fatal conclusion. I call. My
father answers.
Three minutes and 17 seconds later, I hang up and stagger into an alley
between Q Street and Corcoran. My back against a brick wall, I stare up into
the sky, for once beyond tears.
The green cards have come. Eight years in waiting. None of us, in all the years
and mythic significance that they’ve attained, ever thought to ask what they
looked like. It is a beautiful literalism. They’re pieces of plastic. They really
are green. Go figure.
I go home and tell the old friend who proposed to me in the lobby those six
years ago that he’s off the hook.
No one really seems to get it. Oh, cool! That’s great! It is anticlimactic, I
suppose. I’ve been here for years, performing and earning America. Most
folks I know now assume I’m a hyphenated native, a true-blue AmericanBorn-Confused-Desi, versus a tenuous extra who might have to leave any
moment. One of my more thoughtful friends asks me, “How does it feel?”
It feels like running across a busy street out of the cold, into the sudden shock
of warmth and safety. It feels like winning the lottery. The lottery is to have a
seat at the table, but unless you avert your eyes, you still see the masses who
have also fought to make it in, their faces pressed to the glass as they watch
you bring the food to your lips. You know you’re no better than anyone out
there, have done close to nothing different, but they are outside and you are
in.
How does it feel? It feels like you’re a pardoned turkey. You are one of the
fewest few, one of those who get to keep the life they have built. Look around
at your life, at the scaffolding of routine, the gray couch that you saved for,
the business you’re working to start, the living room you painted that precise
shade of Sherwin-Williams yellow, the faces you kiss goodnight. It is that
simplest luxury: You get to not be uprooted, at any moment, from all of that.
On a crisp winter night in D.C., the year I get my green card, President
Obama announces his executive action on immigration. I listen to bar
conversations devolve into predictably partisan chatter. I hear the old refrain,
couched in more sophisticated, wonkish phrasing: These people just need to
learn how to come here legally.
And after all these years of alternating between stoicism and hope, I am so
angry. I’m grateful for my reprieve and for my family’s, but filled with a
retroactive, reverberating fury at the broken system.
I’m furious because true justice is
something greater than pardoning turkeys.
I’m furious because true justice is something greater than pardoning turkeys.
It is more expansive than letting the odd exception pass through a thicket of
expensive bureaucracy and codified racism, and hailing the lucky, made-itwith-an-inch-to-spare few as emblematic of the system working.
In February 2015, the government was still processing some family-related
visa applications filed as far back as August 1991. It was still processing some
employment-related visa applications from December 2003. We have
applicants in the system who have been waiting for legal permanent resident
status for more than 20 years. Many of them are already in the U.S., paying
taxes, and contributing to our economy in a multitude of ways. And yet
President Obama’s executive action to protect undocumented immigrants
from deportation has just been delayed by a court ruling, again. The setbacks
never end.
Our national focus on undocumented immigrants is, at its heart, about the
creation of common enemies. It’s about cultivating fear of those who are new,
different, or vulnerable, for political gain. Who would choose to be
undocumented if the legal system were less capricious, less rigged for those
with luck and money? Who would choose to risk everything if there were
another way?
When I see xenophobes decry the people who have fought to make it in, when
I overhear “You’re in America! Speak English!”, when I listen to “These
people just need to come here legally,” I think about the immigrants and the
children of immigrants I have known through the years, documented and not.
I long to grab collars, pull faces close to mine and say, “These people are more
American than you will ever be.”
Because when you perform the act of audacity that is consolidating an entire
life into a couple of suitcases and striking out to make your way, what is not
American about that? When you leave the old country so that your daughters
can have a good education and walk down their streets without fear, what is
not American about that? When you flee violence and poverty to come to a
land of plenty, when you are willing to learn new languages, to haul ass, to do
twice as much work, what is not American about that?
To cross borders, to brave tribulation, to hustle, and to take up the n …
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