Actor Sean Penn stirred a social media debate this weekend with a Green Card comment toward film director Alejandro González Iñárritu, a Mexican national.

While announcing the winner for Best Picture during the Academy Awards on Sunday, Penn opened the envelope containing the name of winner and said, "Who gave this son of a bitch his Green Card?"

Penn's comment was a reference to Iñárritu, who was born in Mexico and directed "Birdman," which won Best Picture. Iñárritu and Penn have previously worked together for the 2003 film "21 Grams," which earned the actor the Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival. Penn's Green Card comment was met with mixed response with people calling the remark as "xenophobic," "disgusting," "horrible" and "racist."

Iñárritu commented about Penn's statement while backstage at the Academy Awards.

"I found it hilarious," Iñárritu said. "You know, Sean and I have that kind of brutal relation where only true friendship can survive."

Iñárritu said Penn made similar jokes while filming "21 Grams," adding, "I made on him a lot of very tough jokes that I will not tell you. Anyway, we have that kind of relation, of old friendship. I didn't find it offensive. I think it was very funny, in my personal view."

Before addressing Penn's comment, Iñárritu used his Best Picture acceptance speech as a platform to address the troubles in Mexico and immigration. Iñárritu dedicated the award to Mexicans, both in Mexico and those living in the U.S.

"The ones who live in Mexico, I pray that we can find and build the government that we deserve, and the ones that live in this country, who are just part of the latest generation of immigrants in this county, I just pray they can be treated with the same dignity and respect as the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation."

According to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a Green Card can be obtained through an individual's family, employment, asylum or refugee status or a series of special provisions. With the Green Card, an individual is authorized to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis.

Based on The Migration Policy Institute's data, the Immigration Act of 1990 allows 55,000 visas to be available every year, including 5,000 for Nicaraguans. The U.S. Department of State noted nearly 9.4 million people registered for a diversity lottery to obtain a Green Card.

Green Cards was a topic President Barack Obama emphasized for his immigration executive actions on November 2014. In a memorandum by U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson, immigrants have encountered "extremely long waits" to receive visas or Green Cards, which is set at a limit by Congress in 1990. Johnson acknowledged "hundreds of thousands" of green cards have not been issued despite heavy demand due to a "compounded" immigration system. As a result, Johnson claimed U.S. employers have been prevented from hiring and retaining "highly skilled workers" that may be critical to their businesses.


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