U.S. figure skater Mirai Nagasu, 24, made America proud Monday when she completed a historic triple axel during the Winter Games in Pyeongchang. She made 3-1/2 rotations in the air — landing the triple axel — then went on to do eight more triple jumps and high difficulty spins, the Washington Post reported.
Nagasu was the first American woman to land the triple axel in Olympic competition. She went on to win a Bronze medal.
“It’s historical and something no one can take away from me,” Nagasu said afterward, according to the Washington Post. “I wanted to make America proud.”
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 12, 2018
It would not take away from Nagasu’s admirable win for America by impressing on the importance of immigration to the United States. Nagasu is American by birth. Her parents are both Japanese immigrants who moved to California and have a sushi restaurant in the city of Arcadia.
Highlighting her parents’ Japanese heritage is by no means intended to “other” Nagasu as a hyphenated American, à la “Asian American” instead of simply “American.” Rather, Nagasu’s success story — and that of a few other Team USA members — pokes holes into the Trump administration’s criticism that only worthy-enough immigrants and their progeny should be welcomed into the United States.
A White House official statement last week called to end the “economic harm caused by our immigration system,” insisting that “our immigration system’s prioritization of family relations over merit, education level, or skill has allowed a wave of low-skilled labor into our country.” It’s unclear whether Nagasu’s parents — restaurant owners working in the service industry — could have entered the country under Trump’s harsh proposal to eliminate so-called “low-skilled” labor. But without her parents, Nagasu also wouldn’t be here.
As a presidential candidate, Trump criticized the 14th Amendment, calling for the elimination of automatic citizenship for certain people born in the United States. Without the Constitution, Nagasu’s bronze medal wouldn’t have been on behalf of America. The same may hold true for a few other Team USA members.
Chloe Kim, a 17-year-old snowboarder on Team USA, is the daughter of a South Korean immigrant who arrived in Southern California with $800 in his pocket and first worked as a dishwasher for a fast-food franchise, then as a cashier for a liquor store. Jong Jin Kim and his wife Boran both later worked in the tourism industry. Trump’s immigration proposal, which supports merit-based immigration, as evidenced from his State of the Union speech, likely would have barred Kim’s father from entry.
The Shibutani siblings, Maia and Alex, are a pair of ice skaters who won a bronze medal on Monday in the Team Event at the Winter Olympics. They are American by birth. Similarly, their father Chris is American by birth. But their mother Naomi is Japanese and grew up in Miami, Florida, according to a 2014 Japanese-English language newspaper Rafu Shimbo.
And under Trump’s critical eye, he likely wouldn’t have granted entry to Maame Biney, the first Black woman on the U.S. Olympic speedskating team, who came to the United States at the age of five from Ghana. She moved in with her father in Maryland before moving to Virginia a few months later, according to the Team USA webpage. Last month, the president allegedly questioned why America should accept immigrants from “shithole countries” from Africa.
These Team USA members — children of immigrants and immigrants themselves — exemplify the longstanding narrative that diversity, in fact, creates American legacies. There are many more would-be inspirational children of immigrants — of all legal statuses — who could one day make America proud just as much as these people have. Yet there are about 4.1 million U.S.-born children under the age of 18 with at least one undocumented parent who don’t know whether their parents could be taken away by federal immigration authorities with just a door knock.