From the Right



America's Olympic champions come from many backgrounds

Ruben Navarrette Jr. on

SAN DIEGO -- If President Trump and the nativist wing of the GOP succeed in their suicide mission of cutting legal immigration to the United States, who's going to win all the Olympic medals?

Consider the heartwarming story of Chloe Kim, the 17-year-old snowboarder from Torrance, California, who won the gold medal in the women's half-pipe this week at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Kim racked up a near-perfect 98.75 on her last run.

Kim's parents were born in South Korea and emigrated to the United States two decades ago. Every weekend, they made the five-hour drive from their home in Southern California to the mountains so that Chloe -- who won her first competition at 6 -- could attend a training program. Imagine what went through their minds as their U.S.-born daughter -- secure in the knowledge that she had won Olympic gold -- hopped off her snowboard and wrapped herself in the Stars and Stripes.

"I'm so used to America," Kim said recently. "But obviously I have a Korean face ... I can't walk around people like I'm, like, straight-up American; ... I'm Korean American ... [but] I identify more with the American culture."

Or reflect upon the inspirational tale of 24-year-old Mirai Nagasu, who leapt into the record books in the figure-skating team competition when she became the first American in Olympic history to pull off a triple axel jump. After making 3 1/2 rotations in the air, Nagasu landed solidly and flashed a winning smile. She told reporters that she awoke at 4 a.m. that morning because she was nervous about delivering for her teammates. She did. The U.S. skaters won the bronze. She also said, "I wanted to make America proud." She did that, too.

The U.S.-born daughter of immigrants from Japan, who run a sushi restaurant in Southern California, Nagasu was for a time a dual citizen of Japan and the United States. But Japanese law required that she choose one or the other before her 22nd birthday. She chose U.S. citizenship.

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Are these the people we're supposed to be afraid of -- legal immigrants like the parents of these two Olympians?

Trump, White House adviser Stephen Miller, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Republican Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue think the American Dream is a zero-sum game. They yammer on about ending what they derisively call "chain migration" and argue for a point system that rewards "merit."

The problem is that no one knows what that word means.

But I know what it doesn't mean. Though this may come as news to people like Trump, Miller, Sessions, Cotton and Perdue, merit doesn't mean being born on third base and prancing around like you hit a triple. And though Sessions recently let it slip -- in remarks to the National Sheriffs' Association -- that what sends a tingle up his leg is the "Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement," merit doesn't mean having white skin. And in depressed areas like the Rust Belt, merit doesn't mean letting yourself off the hook for bad choices by claiming that you're the victim of bad companies, bad trade and bad policies.


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