Green Card and Other Realities

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

Applying for the Alien Registration Card, a.k.a Green Card, can be daunting for some. There is a lot of preparation and background work to be done; but the requirements are really easy to meet. It is in your best interest to follow the law, but if you must bend or break the law, be prepared. And pray: may God almighty, the omnipotent and the omnipresent, be with you should anything go wrong.

Before coming to the United States of America, perhaps no one told you “life is hard in Yankee.” I bet no one told you. And even if someone had told you, you wouldn’t have believed his or her counsel. Would you? Indeed for the vast majority of Africans, no one told us the truth about how difficult, complex and discouraging life in this country can be. No one told of how America messes with people’s mind. No one told us how this country tests ones faith. Of how this country can transform one’s essence, for good or for bad.

We are willing to sell our soul to come to America. We are willing to falsify documents just to come to this country. We are willing to commit indiscretions just to come to this country. We are willing to leave our familiar lives for the unknown in America. And those of us who were “somebody” in our departing countries are willing to come to America and start afresh as “nobody.” The pull of this country is so great that the vast majority of us who make the journey cannot think of a life without America.

A medical doctor in Lesotho would rather come to America to be a Certified Nursing Assistant; a Togo trained lawyer would rather come to America to be a paralegal; a Ghanaian trained bank manager would rather come to America to be a grocery store clerk or security officer; a Namibian trained geologist would rather come to America to be a gas station attendant. A Nigerian lady would rather come to America to marry her dish-washing lover rather than marry a promising civil servant based in Akure or Enugu. Such is the lure and allure of America that twenty percent or more of the continent’s population would migrate to the US and other parts of the West if allowed.

People come to America for different reasons. We succumb to different pull-push factors that include religious or ethnic persecution or displacement as a result of war or natural disasters. Some came because of the possibility of better education, employment and economic stability. Some came because their home countries offered no hope for a better tomorrow. And indeed, the reasons to migrate are endless. But unfortunately, most of us leave home without knowing what we were getting ourselves into; all we knew was that there must be a “better life yonder.”

Whether one fails or succeeds depends on several factors, and some of these factors are, for the most part, completely beyond ones control. There are those who have tried and tried and tried without success or success came at a painfully slow pace — while some seems to have the golden touch, especially in the acquisition of Greencard. For most, it is difficult to imagine life in America without a Greencard.

I have witnessed grown men weep over Greencard. I have witnessed grown men and women lose their minds after being turned down by the immigration service. I have witnessed men and women, who are otherwise intelligent and rational, do the improbable over Greencard. In some cases, the Greencard process is akin to going to war: you must “know thy enemy,” you must have a strategy, you must be patient and at the same time be aggressive; and by all means there must be no paper-error during the entire process. All supporting documentations must be “clean and clear,” and submitted in a timely manner.

There are those who stroll into the US with Greencard in their possession, i.e. the so-called greencard lottery winners. How fortunate they must be! While a great many Africans have to suffer through years of immigration palaver, these lottery winners just stroll into the country as though they own America. How lucky they must be not to have to go through some of the indignities and iniquities that are sometimes associated with the process.

You weep when the immigration officers rejects your application. You weep when the officer tells you “you will be investigated.” You shiver when the officer tells you your papers are not in order. You weep when within a few days or weeks before the interview your significant other tells you he/she has had a change of mind or that he/she suspects you are “no good and of no use.” You weep when things that ought not to go wrong go abysmally wrong. And you die a dozen times when you get a deportation order.

In such moments you pray for seven days and seven nights. You remember all the sins you’ve committed and then go to confession. You fast for forty days and forty nights. You give offerings and pray for INS-mercy. Most people will suddenly become born-again Christians, and at the same time send messages to their folks back home to consult with the Imam, the Babalawo or the head of their alternate religious faith for fortune to smile on them. They will give to God and to the gods and to Caesar. Whatever it takes folks; whatever it takes! War is war and you go to war with whatever you have!

I have no qualms offending God. I really don’t; but to offend the tax office, the police, or the immigration folks? Please don’t! That would be suicidal. No matter what you do, please be honest with those folks. Otherwise, they will turn your life upside down. They will make your life a living hell. Yet, they also could be your best friends. And in fact, make them your best friend. To start with, no tax frauds, no trying to outmaneuver the immigration folks, and no drugs; no credit card or insurance fraud or other prosecutable offenses. And by God, do whatever it takes to stay away from child support mess; otherwise, your life will be on hold for 18-years as month after month, year after year 20-35% of your net income will be withheld.

An unsolicited advice: before the end of your sojourn in this country — be it five, ten, fifteen or thirty years, be sure to acquire an American education. If you are into the social science, be sure to earn at least a master’s degree or its equivalent. Otherwise, get a marketable technical skill or natural/hard science education. And please stay away from driving cabs unless of course you absolutely have to (in times of financial crisis). Why? Because driving cab is one of the most addictive jobs there is in this country.

Yes, some cabdrivers own the cab they drive or own a fleet of cars and are therefore businessmen. They have the money and live a comfortable life. Generally speaking however, a good number of those who drive cabs will keep at it for upward of ten or more years without evidence of financial mobility. Most cab drivers will tell you they have a master’s degree in this or that field and yet seem stuck driving cabs. It is a dead-ender. Don’t get stuck with life. Don’t get stuck in or with anything. Live a good life.

And please remember not to live and die in America. But of course, not everybody cares about how and where they die; not everybody cares whether they die amongst strangers or among loving faces; not everybody care whether they die in a stormy weather or atop a mountain. Death is death. But to the extent that you care, it is better to die among friends and family. If you lived all your productive life in this country, you are likely to end up in a nursing home amongst strangers; you are likely to die alone and lonely and be buried in a cemetery with unknown ghostly faces.

Even the earth and the worms and the moisture will wonder about you. You will not be acknowledged. You will not be celebrated. Your life would have been in vain, meaningless. So, please die an African death…with dignity.

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sultan November 25, 2008 - 9:51 pm

what do u mean by ‘ you have no qualms offending God’ please keep your ‘so called wisdom’ to yourself

Olumuyiwa Isaac April 29, 2008 - 5:20 am

True talk. Nice article. Most people in Nigeria, young and old, male and female, will never accept this truth. I was sent to Canada in 2000 on official assignment for two months. Having seen the ‘beauty and allure of IT’ in this country, i returned back home thinking of how to go in my own personal capacity(this time not official). The opportunity came in 2001 and i thought God had answered my prayer. I lived in Canada for 2 years and i bet it was not as i expected. The IT jobs were not coming. I wrote several IT Certification exams and these did not do the magic. I discovered that many of my friends who had encouraged me to move to Canada were only doing menial jobs for a living. The frustration was out of this world and i returned back home in 2003, got a job in a high-profile IT company, got excellent banking software skill that i now travel round the world implementing. If i had remained in Canada, i probably would have continued the life of stuggle with racial and societal discrimination. Now i have a settled marital life and family, have my personal house, travel to Europe and Asia with my family for vacation every year. Thank God i took the bull by the horn and returned back to base. Men, abroad no easy o!!!!

tola November 19, 2007 - 9:30 am

good article, no place like home , we all know that but , curiosity is the major issue, most people want to see how the western countries look like , for real it's a big sin if i no enter yankee , i love to see the place, how home is greener, the economy is just booming , sooner we won't have course to queue in the US embassy for visa, GOD bless nigeria

Atlanta November 15, 2007 - 5:53 am

Oga Ogbobode, you almost crack my ribs. Na true you talk. However, there are good things about this place. All it takes na God, patience, tact and carefulness. Success dey here. Good amenities dey. Much of wetin you outline na the gospel truth. Thanks for the lafs jare.

ade November 7, 2007 - 12:50 pm

Oga Abidde, everybody comes to life with a different head, where one fails another suceed, saying america is hard is a fact and not a fact, it depends on what you are and where you are, if you do good you will eat good if otherwise then one will have cause to regret it all.

If you want to come to America come na u sabi wetin u wan come do, above all there s nothing God no fit do, some people can be in america for 15yrs and they are just there while some will come less than 3ys they are gone, very far sef. so it all lies on u

Anonymous October 26, 2007 - 3:52 pm


Una no sabi wetin Oga Abidde dey talk at all! Anyone wey don comot for Naija see wetin dey happen for dis Obodo Western kontris go tink 2ce be4 im tink of visa. My own addition to Oga Abidde's advice bi say; if una don reach 30 already, make una siddon for naija jeje! Dis war no be for old men o.

Ukpetenan Frank September 18, 2007 - 2:35 pm

Oga Abidde which levels? U seem to be discouraging us newly grads in Nigeria hoping to come to the US for a higher degree. Na so the life hard there naim una we dey there never pack come the way jews run leave Nazi Germany.

Make una try dey talk about both sides of the story as Phil Collins talk am so we for Naija go fit siddon well make up our minds.

There's alot of negative info coming out you guys in the US about the dangers of coming over!U no know say to even come enjoy constant light, good road, steady good drinking water and all the fine fine whitey chicks na sometin of joy. Abeg make all of una go siddon look bush.



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