Where Do I Belong? Regina Santiago

Thanks to Minneapolis Foundation for enabling us to continue deeper content and discussions about gender-based violence in 2024. Our gender-based violence stories and conversations won a 2023 community service leadership award from the Minnesota Newspaper Association. 
Regina Santiago (Photo Courtesy Green Card Voices)

Since 2013, Green Card Voices has produced video and print storytelling about some of the 40 million immigrants and refugees in the United States.The mission is to humanize what otherwise can be a misunderstood and mischaracterized community.

Executive director Tea Rozman Clark was a volunteer in refugee camps after war broke out in her home country of Yugoslavia. She received a scholarship to study in the United States, and eventually earned a master’s degree from New York University. She launched Green Card Voices in the Twin Cities, and has since branched into other areas of the state and country. We are partnering to feature some (adapted and updated) stories collected by her non-profit organization.

I was born in the Philippines, then attended an American school system in Indonesia. My counselor in high school was from Minnesota and recommended that the Midwest was a good place for college. I got that big guide to colleges. I remember paging through every college and trying to imagine myself having a life there. I was mostly excited.

I’m still far away from my family, which has been difficult. Growing up, we had this tradition of sitting in a circle around the Christmas tree. Now, every Christmas morning, we hook up Skype and they set a place for me on the laptop looking at the presents. For four years I’ve been a teacher. During the time I was getting my naturalization process figured out, I wanted to be open with my students about it. They helped quiz me on those civics questions. I feel like they were just as excited about the process as I was. On the day of my naturalization ceremony, I couldn’t be at school. The next day I came back and they had written me congratulation notes with American flags and bald eagles. On the inside, every child had written what they think the best part of being a U.S. citizen is. 

As a teacher, especially for students at such a young age, you’re not just there to teach them academics. You’re also a role model. It was important to methat I model openness about my story, so that they would always feel empowered to share their story as well.


In June 2018, Green Card Voices released its fifth book, “Green Card Entrepreneur Voices: Inspiring How-To Stories From Minnesota Immigrants.” For more videos and links to books, including teaching guides, and full video stories from these women and others, visit GreenCardVoices.org

Minnesota Women’s Press featured a profile of Green Card 
Voices founder Tea Rozman Clark in 2016. 

The Advocates for Human Rights’ report “Moving from Exclusion to Belonging: Immigrants Rights in Minnesota Today” is the result of more than 200 interviews and 25 community conversations held throughout Minnesota. Participants noted that while Minnesota is welcoming, the welcome does not extend very far. “Newcomers face discrimination and exclusion from social networks and by extension, exclusion from the economic opportunities and political power such networks bring.” 

Details: theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/belonging

MinnPost has a series of articles about immigrants: minnpost.com/category/minnpost-topic/politics/immigration

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