The American Dream in the Trump era: Winning the Green Card Lottery

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Here are some  stories of Sicilian winners of the US residence permit. Riccardo: “My family and I are excited, but also a bit scared.” Rosario, the Green Card Lottery winner in 2008 says: “Here, if you cannot fit in, you’re not going anywhere.”  Rosi: “It’s an opportunity for my kids and for my company”

Is the USA still the country of great opportunities? Recent political developments, as well as tensions related to immigration and health policies that go hand in hand with the financial crisis, have made the American Dream almost like a distant memory. Yet, there are so many people around the world who take part each year in the Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery, hoping to win  a so-called “green card” to be able to live and work in the USA. Riccardo Pandolfini, 46, is one of these. “Everything started about four years ago,” says Riccardo, from Catania, who has been living in Tenerife for years. “My wife told me about this lottery. Since then I have tempted fate, and this year we have finally succeeded. ” Riccardo, who left Sicily at a young age to create a better future first in Verona and then in Spain (where he works as a restaurant chain manager and lives with his wife and six children) continues to see America as a meritocratic country, where you can forge a career and ensure a better future for your family. “Friends and relatives thought  this choice was crazy. In fact, it is an attempt to improve our living conditions and make new experiences. Spain, like Italy does not have much to offer to the younger generations. If it goes well, we’ll be proud, and if it doesn’t, we’ll treasure the memory and go back to live in Tenerife.” The desire to get a new life and grow professionally led him to set aside the uncertainties and proceed on his chosen  path. “In just over two months, not only did I have to get hold of all the documents to be presented to the American Embassy in Madrid and go to medical examinations, but I  also got married so I could bring  my partner with me –  otherwise, she could not come with me and my children. The expense of this long bureaucratic hassle was substantial, but fortunately we  passed the final interview and now we have a few months  to choose the city to live in and move, or the visa will be revoked.

THE EXPERIENCE OF THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY LEFT. What is the  experience of the stars-and stripes dream of the Italians who have won the Green Card Lottery in recent years? For many, the American dream was less rosy than they had hoped. “I moved to Boston with my family,” says Rosario Ragusa, a 50-year-old Acireale citizen. Starting from scratch, however, was far from easy: after obtaining  my PhD, my desire was to become a university professor in Business Administration; at the beginning, however, I worked as a  chef and  waiter. Keeping the family was impossible, so after nine months we went back to Sicily, where my wife resumed her job. But I continued to live a haphazard existence, so I decided to leave alone this time.” For about five years, Rosario has lived in Boston, where he teaches Italian, works as a freelance company consultant and is a coach of a handball team. Despite this, he still does not earn enough to bring his family over again. “I often think of going back,” he says nostalgically, “especially for my children. But I am fifty years old. What can I do in Italy? It is true that the quality of life in Sicily is better than in America, and that I have not yet realized my dream here, but I still believe in it, and I will not stop looking for work that suits my aspirations. Here I have found the working dignity I would never have in Italy. I have learned that if you do not make an effort, you do not go anywhere, but if you work at it, sooner or later you get where you want to be.” Rosaria Trovato, 41, a Caltanissetta businesswoman, had a different experience. After several attempts, she also won the Green Card. She has been living in Boston for a year now with her husband and two daughters. “I lacked for nothing in Sicily, but I wanted to give my daughters different opportunities and to make my company based in Riesi (Caltanissetta) known abroad.” Her knowledge of English, a degree in Economics and working contacts cultivated over the years,  enabled her to find, without much difficulty, work as an employee at the University of Northeastern University (where she is working on issuing work permits to international students); she continues to manage the family business, dealing with relationships with foreign clients. “Life is different here, from the health system (Obamacare has not been touched yet and the restrictive policy on immigration has had no impact on resident citizens) to school (more focused on practice and less on theory) and the quality of life that is very frenetic. However, there are so many  opportunities. The American dream does exist,  but you need to adapt to it,  be content with less at the beginning and  make a lot of  sacrifices to achieve it.”

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