The White Envelope with the Green Card
By Jazmine Florencio
I always took my citizenship status for granted. I never questioned my privilege until I saw someone around my age in the same situation my parents were once in.
As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, I never thought of myself as privileged. But last summer, I had an experience that made me aware of my privilege. In July, I interned as an administrative assistant at a nonprofit in Southern California that works with immigrants.
One morning, my supervisor Carlos asked me if I wanted to give a client his green card since he was going to be in a meeting. I didn’t feel qualified to do something so important. I was only 17. I panic at asking my mother for my own legal documents, so being responsible for someone else’s made me panic even more. But I couldn’t get out of it.
Before his meeting, Carlos grabbed a white envelope from the mail bin. This envelope contained what the client had waited for since he was 15: a Permanent Residence Card.
When I saw Carlos’ message that the client had arrived, I grabbed the white envelope and took the elevator to the main lobby. My hands were sweaty. In my head, I repeated what Carlos instructed me to tell the client, including when to apply for citizenship and what to do if he lost his green card.
There was no one in the lobby, so I headed out to the street. I looked at the ID picture and searched for a face that matched. A nervous young man stared into his phone, occasionally looking up as if waiting for someone.
When I walked over to him, he seemed shy. I asked if he was the client. He smiled and said yes. When I ran through the information and showed him the green card, he eagerly reached out for it. As I headed back toward the building, I turned to face him again. “Felicidades.” His eyes lit up. “Muchas gracias.” I was grateful to have experienced such a big moment with him.
Walking back to the office, I got lost in my thoughts.
I always took my citizenship status for granted. I never questioned my privilege until I saw someone around my age in the same situation my parents were once in. But this time I, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, gave a young man his Permanent Residence Card. Just a few years ago, that could’ve been my mother—arriving at an immigration law center to pick up her green card.
That moment opened my eyes. I became aware of my privilege. My parents made the dangerous journey to the United States so that my siblings and I were born with citizenship and could receive an education, something my parents never had.
The white envelope in my sweaty hands symbolizes the power that I hold. That young man was the first immigrant whose life I touched directly but he will not be the last. I want to help more immigrants like him, like my parents. When I become a lawyer, I will touch many other lives like his. That white envelope is a reminder of what is possible.
After returning to New York from an internship in California, I began writing about an experience that touched me deeply. I started documenting everything on a Google Doc and decided to use it in my college application process. Now that I am done with the writing piece, I decided that I wanted to do a digital media aspect to it. I recently finished a digital drawing related to the work that depicts the scene of the encounter.
Jazmine Florencio is a high school junior who is proud of her Mexican roots. She often writes about people who are underrepresented, including people of color and mothers. She wants to use her voice to bring attention to those who are often forgotten in the eyes of society.