Journalist tells of immigrant struggles in new book

For many immigrants, their struggle to survive doesn’t end when they get to the United States, a reporter-turned-author told a law school audience recently.

Saundra Amrheim, a longtime St. Petersburg Times journalist, drew upon examples of that struggle from her new book, “Green Card Stories,” which showcases the  plight of about 50 migrants from around the world. The common thread among all of them is the perseverance to overcome adversity to start a new life for them and their families.

“Some of the most surprising things I discovered in the Green Card Stories was that no matter what difficulties everyone went through, they all expressed a real love of being here no matter what,” she said. “It’s a reminder of how many of us who were born here take what we have for granted.”

During her 17 years as a reporter, she said she witnessed many examples of sacrifice and fortitude by immigrants, which prompted her to write the novel.

“Many times complete strangers came out to help them, showing how despite the negative rhetoric in the media, many Americans admire the work that immigrants are doing in this country,” Amrhein said.

One of the other panelists was meteorologist Tomas Castellanos, whose story was featured in the book. He told the audience that it took him and his mother 13 attempts before finally making it to the U.S. But upon arrival, his mother had to endure a lot of new sacrifices.

“Once we got here, she had to endure downward social mobility going from being a professor in Cuba to working in a pizza place and a factory,” Ccastellanos said. “She says she’s proud of me but I am more proud of her for everything she overcame and all she has accomplished.”

The discussion served as inspiration to several members of the audience.

“I enjoyed hearing the success stories,” said Brittany Young, a third-year law student. “I work in the immigration clinic where we tend to hear some of the sadder stories. So it’s good to hear about people who are really succeeding because it makes our work more purposeful.”

For more information about “Green Card Stories,” go to