Daily Picture Show

Told In Pictures: How 50 Immigrants Got Green Cards

Close your eyes and picture an immigrant. Who do you see?

The true picture of an American immigrant is more complex than what might first come to mind. That's what photographer Ariana Lindquist and author Saundra Amrhein set out to explore in the book Green Card Stories.

  • When Rino Nakasone first saw Michael Jackson on TV at her home in Okinawa, Japan, she was transfixed. An avid dancer, she studied his moves until she could imitate him perfectly. In 1999, she moved to California to chase her dream of becoming a professional dancer. Rino has since performed with Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera and Janet Jackson.
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    When Rino Nakasone first saw Michael Jackson on TV at her home in Okinawa, Japan, she was transfixed. An avid dancer, she studied his moves until she could imitate him perfectly. In 1999, she moved to California to chase her dream of becoming a professional dancer. Rino has since performed with Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera and Janet Jackson.
    Courtesy of Ariana Lindquist
  • Raised by a single mother in India where divorce was taboo, Farah Bala immersed herself in the creative world of theater, eventually winning a scholarship to study in New York in 2001. Farah has gone on to become a critically acclaimed actor in the Off-Broadway production Tales from the Tunnel.
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    Raised by a single mother in India where divorce was taboo, Farah Bala immersed herself in the creative world of theater, eventually winning a scholarship to study in New York in 2001. Farah has gone on to become a critically acclaimed actor in the Off-Broadway production Tales from the Tunnel.
    Courtesy of Ariana Lindquist
  • Raised in a Brooklyn public housing project, Randolph Sealey felt like an American until learning he was an illegal immigrant. His dreams of becoming a doctor seemed dashed until an anonymous donor paid for his first year at Duke. He turned himself into immigration authorities hoping to get amnesty. He was granted permanent residence, and now is an orthopedic surgeon in Connecticut.
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    Raised in a Brooklyn public housing project, Randolph Sealey felt like an American until learning he was an illegal immigrant. His dreams of becoming a doctor seemed dashed until an anonymous donor paid for his first year at Duke. He turned himself into immigration authorities hoping to get amnesty. He was granted permanent residence, and now is an orthopedic surgeon in Connecticut.
    Courtesy of Ariana Lindquist
  • Lylna Thao thought she could handle a traditional Hmong marriage, which is what her Laotian family expected of her. But once she was wed, her new life felt claustrophobic. She secretly began to take boxing classes, then got divorced, despite the scandal it caused in the Hmong community. She began fighting as a women's mixed martial artist. "I love life," she says now.
    Hide caption
    Lylna Thao thought she could handle a traditional Hmong marriage, which is what her Laotian family expected of her. But once she was wed, her new life felt claustrophobic. She secretly began to take boxing classes, then got divorced, despite the scandal it caused in the Hmong community. She began fighting as a women's mixed martial artist. "I love life," she says now.
    Courtesy of Ariana Lindquist
  • Nelly Boyette was an illegal immigrant from Peru when she met her future husband, Jeff, a day laborer at a local flea market. They fell in love and were happily married until immigration officials threatened deportation on the grounds of marriage fraud. The flea market community came to their rescue.
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    Nelly Boyette was an illegal immigrant from Peru when she met her future husband, Jeff, a day laborer at a local flea market. They fell in love and were happily married until immigration officials threatened deportation on the grounds of marriage fraud. The flea market community came to their rescue.
    Courtesy of Ariana Lindquist
  • Soumaya Khalifa had always wanted to share with Americans what it meant to be a Muslim. But she never could have imagined that her first chance would come just three weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. Undaunted, Soumaya has continued to speak publicly to build an understanding of Islam.
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    Soumaya Khalifa had always wanted to share with Americans what it meant to be a Muslim. But she never could have imagined that her first chance would come just three weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. Undaunted, Soumaya has continued to speak publicly to build an understanding of Islam.
    Courtesy of Ariana Lindquist
  • An earthquake in Colombia shattered the glass shop owned by Angela Andrade and her husband, Javier Londono. With everything destroyed, Javier went to the U.S. alone to rebuild their fortune. Soon after, Angela and their daughter showed up at his drafty, unfinished basement apartment in New Jersey. The young family, now with two children, try to make ends meet.
    Hide caption
    An earthquake in Colombia shattered the glass shop owned by Angela Andrade and her husband, Javier Londono. With everything destroyed, Javier went to the U.S. alone to rebuild their fortune. Soon after, Angela and their daughter showed up at his drafty, unfinished basement apartment in New Jersey. The young family, now with two children, try to make ends meet.
    Courtesy of Ariana Lindquist
  • While working as a bodyguard for U.S. contractors in Iraq, a car bomb exploded near Hayder Abdulwahab's home. When he regained consciousness, he found he was blind and left for dead in a Baghdad morgue. Rescued by his brother, Hayder began a new life as a refugee in Tampa, Fla. Still blind, though slowly regaining some sight through a series of operations, Hayder is working to build a new future.
    Hide caption
    While working as a bodyguard for U.S. contractors in Iraq, a car bomb exploded near Hayder Abdulwahab's home. When he regained consciousness, he found he was blind and left for dead in a Baghdad morgue. Rescued by his brother, Hayder began a new life as a refugee in Tampa, Fla. Still blind, though slowly regaining some sight through a series of operations, Hayder is working to build a new future.
    Courtesy of Ariana Lindquist
  • After an influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe drove down wages and increased competition for construction jobs in England, David Day looked to a better life in the U.S. The high cost of living in the U.K. made the move more urgent. Eventually sponsored as a specialty carpenter, David moved his family to Georgia, bought a home with a big yard, and now works in the construction industry there.
    Hide caption
    After an influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe drove down wages and increased competition for construction jobs in England, David Day looked to a better life in the U.S. The high cost of living in the U.K. made the move more urgent. Eventually sponsored as a specialty carpenter, David moved his family to Georgia, bought a home with a big yard, and now works in the construction industry there.
    Courtesy of Ariana Lindquist
  • Newton Campbell, originally from Jamaica, quit his high-paying job as a corporate comptroller and began to teach yoga and live a more simple life. He now owns his own studio outside of Los Angeles.
    Hide caption
    Newton Campbell, originally from Jamaica, quit his high-paying job as a corporate comptroller and began to teach yoga and live a more simple life. He now owns his own studio outside of Los Angeles.
    Courtesy of Ariana Lindquist

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It chronicles 50 recent immigrants, exploring the various ways they came to America: citizenship via lottery, asylum, family relationships, special artistic ability and, in one case, a judge's decision.

Argentine artists and Iranian actors share their stories — along with Tibetan teachers and even a Japanese Michael Jackson fan, whose dream was to dance with the King of Pop. They have all been changed by a journey, but each story is different. And to express that, Lindquist had the subjects choose how and where they wanted to be portrayed.

"As a person who has lived abroad and overseas — in Asia for almost 10 years of my life — I know what it's like to navigate a different culture," Lindquist says on the phone.

"On a deeply personal level, I could empathize with people who had come to the U.S."

Luis De La Cruz stands in front of the garage where he lived without air conditioning near Phoenix. He lived there with his brother while finishing high school after his father was deported and his mother abandoned them. He is now an honors student at Arizona State University. i i

Luis De La Cruz stands in front of the garage where he lived without air conditioning near Phoenix. He lived there with his brother while finishing high school after his father was deported and his mother abandoned them. He is now an honors student at Arizona State University. Courtesy of Ariana Lindquist hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Ariana Lindquist
Luis De La Cruz stands in front of the garage where he lived without air conditioning near Phoenix. He lived there with his brother while finishing high school after his father was deported and his mother abandoned them. He is now an honors student at Arizona State University.

Luis De La Cruz stands in front of the garage where he lived without air conditioning near Phoenix. He lived there with his brother while finishing high school after his father was deported and his mother abandoned them. He is now an honors student at Arizona State University.

Courtesy of Ariana Lindquist

She recalls being especially moved by the story of Luis De La Cruz. The 17-year-old from Mexico lived with his 12-year-old brother in a sweltering Arizona garage before being taken in by a foster family.

"In photographing him, I was asking him to revisit a difficult place. I love his story. I love his courage," says Lindquist. "You can see in the picture that he's taking ownership of his life at a young age in really, really positive ways."

You can read more "Green Card Stories" on the book's website.

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