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Immigrants Belonging to Communities The US Left Behind Represent America in Tokyo Olympics

Immigrants Belonging to Communities The US Left Behind Represent America in Tokyo Olympics
Sunisa Lee First Hmong-American Gymnast To Represent Team USA, Wins Gold At Tokyo Olympics


Magazine, The Immigrant Experience

Sunisa Lee, the first Hmong-American gymnast to represent Team USA, won the women’s all-around title in Tokyo on July 19. She was competing against Brazilian Rebeca Andrade, the second-place finisher, and Russian Olympic Committee gymnast Angelina Melnikova, who ended up in third place.

Lee, who turned 18 in March, is the youngest of six gymnasts representing America in the Tokyo Olympics. She had also broken her foot and injured her Achilles tendon last year.

In addition to her gold medal, the Hmong-American athlete also took home bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in the uneven bars event final. Nina Derwael of Belgium and Anastasiia Iliankova of Russia won gold and silver, respectively.

Lee and her family, like many Hmong families, resettled in Minnesota after the Vietnam War. Having been recruited by the CIA to fight in a covert military operation, ‘Secret War,’ the Hmong population of Laos, China, and Vietnam was subsequently abandoned after American troops withdrew from Vietnam.

Hmong families were initially denied asylum in the U.S. (unlike Vietnamese or Cambodians), so they fled to Thailand. They began relocating to the US in the late 1970s with communities centered in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and California.

The ethnic group she belongs to celebrated her participation in the Tokyo Olympics way more enthusiastically and eagerly than the native Americans. With her gold, the Hmong also won.

Lee’s overjoyed father took her victory as “the greatest accomplishment of any Hmong person in the US ever.” He said her daughter’s victory  “will go down in history.”

Cuban-American bears American flag at Tokyo Olympics  

Like Lee, many other immigrant athletes are representing and making the US proud at the Tokyo Olympics. For instance, Eddy Alvarez, a Cuban-American from Miami held up the Stars and Stripes as the American flag bearer at the Tokyo Olympics.

Alvarez, 31 is a son of Cuban immigrants. Tears had been flowing from his eyes when he described the honor of being chosen to represent the American nation.

“Being a first-generation Cuban-American, my story represents the American Dream. My family has sacrificed so much for me to have the opportunity to wave this flag proudly,” he told media persons.

Alvarez’s joy was shared by Americans at large. Among them was Senator Marco Rubio (a Miami native too). He took to Twitter to support his fellow countryman.

3 days after getting American citizenship, Kelati represents the US at Tokyo Olympics 

Weini Kelati, a native citizen of Eritrea got US citizenship just three days before qualifying for representing the US at the Tokyo Olympics.

She is one of the most decorated track and field athletes to come through the University of New Mexico, and she will compete in Eugene, Oregon, alongside former Lobo teammate Ednah Kurgat in the 10,000 meters.

During her early career, when she wasn’t a naturalized American citizen, she hoped, “One day, I’ll be at the Olympics to represent the United States.”

After being shortlisted for the Olympics, she said: “I’m so excited to represent my people. I would like to say, thank you so much for your support and making me feel loved.”

A DACA Recipient also Competing in Tokyo Olympics

Luis Grijalva moved to the US from Guatemala along with his parents when he was just 1 year old.

He dreamt all his life to compete in the Olympics and make America proud. But he almost lost his dream when he touched the finish line in 13 minutes 13.14 seconds at the NCAA’s track and field championships. As a result of this, he has been selected to represent Guatemala at the Tokyo Olympics.

Nevertheless, immigration officials would need to approve his departure from the United States and his return to his country.

It was because Grijalva was a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The DACA program gives work and study authorization to illegal immigrants brought to America as children. It only took weeks for the immigration authorities to approve a petition that would let him leave for Japan and reenter the United States without further hassle.

Grijalva somehow got clearance to travel to Tokyo. As his words indicate, he was delighted with the news: “It’s a privilege and an honor to represent Guatemala because that’s where I was born, (where I) have generations of family and that’s where my roots started.”

Immigration is the bloodline of America’s Greatness 

It is widely recognized that the United States is an immigrant nation, and it has absorbed people from all over the world. Immigrants and their children are integral to the vibrant and ever-changing American culture and its economic vitality.

The idea of immigrants becoming Americans is an overwhelming success because the US has given them the opportunity to improve themselves and become fully integrated into American society. In return, immigrants have embraced an American identity and are actively participating in America’s greatness.

The Tokyo Olympics is just one event where America is being represented by immigrants. The immigrants have made America proud on numerous occasions. Therefore, a thorough revision of the US immigration policy is needed for the nation to follow the path of greatness it had been following for a long time.

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