Although it's no longer green, we still call them green cards. They signify the holder is a permanent U.S. resident. They've been vetted by the government to stay in America, and the green card they're issued allows them to cross the border freely.
Many of these permanent residents are perfectly content with their status and never get their citizenship.
"It was comfortable," says green card holder Everardo Landero, 37, who lives in Santa Ana. "I was able to get a driver's license, which eventually became my livelihood. I was able to leave the country. I was able to come back without a problem."
But Landero's mind started to change recently, and other KPCC listeners have told us similar stories, too.
Yes, America's shifting stance on immigration policy and President Trump's travel ban had something to do with it.
Some green card holders were prevented from re-entering the U.S. when the ban was first implemented, and that weighed on Landero's mind.
"Having a green card, they can revoke that if they want to," he says.
Now, he's started the process to become a U.S. citizen, just like his wife and two children.
Landero first came to the U.S. illegally from Mexico when he was 9. But in 2005, he obtained legal permanent resident status.
He could have gotten his citizenship within a handful of years after that, but opted against it because California politics left him scarred as a child.
"It was very immediately obvious that there was a movement not to have us here," he recalls.
In 1994, when he was a teenager, California passed Prop 187 which instituted strong measures against immigrants who came to the state illegally.
"I felt like I wasn't wanted, like I was a part of this country," says Landero. "If you're not going to take me seriously enough, I'm not going to be part of the system. Why should I go to lengths of becoming a citizen?"
But decades later, he started to rethink things.
His children are now in their teens, and Landero wanted to be a better role model for them.
"I want to be able to say that I did things properly," he says. "I want them to know that I was involved and that I did my civic duty."
Landero and his wife are thinking about taking an overseas vacation to Europe soon, too, and a U.S. citizenship would guarantee that he could never be turned away at the border.
But most importantly, he saw the results and rhetoric that came out of the last election – one that he could not vote in – and hopes that his voice as a citizen could help change America for the better.
"I would be very proud to be a citizen of this country. It stands for something that reaches out to people," says Landero. "I want everyone to be welcomed, even if I wasn't immediately."
Listen to the full interview with Everardo Landero by clicking the audio player above.