Winners And Losers

first_imgSoon after Mebrahtom Keflezighi became the first American in 27 years to win the New York City Marathon on Nov. 7, an online debate erupted over whether the 34-year-old Eritrea-born U.S. citizen was legitimately an “American winner.”Although Keflezighi migrated to the United States in 1987 when he was only 12 and became a naturalized citizen in 1998, a New York Times headline noted, “To Some, Winner Is Not American Enough.” The online controversy ricocheted into the mainstream media. sports business reporter Darren Rovell commented that Keflezighi is only “technically American,” adding, “Nothing against Keflezighi, but he’s like a ringer who you hire to work a couple hours at your office so that you can win the executive softball league.”Rovell later apologized, admitting: “It turns out, Keflezighi moved to the United States in time to develop at every level in America. So Meb is in fact an American trained athlete and an American citizen and he should be celebrated as the American winner of the NYC Marathon.”  The online debate parsed considerations such as U.S. birth, age at which one migrates or becomes a U.S. citizen, the length of time one has lived in the country, etc. Do you become a “real American”, as opposed to a “technical” one, when you are naturalized? Is a U.S. permanent resident of 30 years “less American” than a naturalized citizen who has lived in the United States for just five years? How about a long resident nonimmigrant or, for that matter, an illegal alien? Also, when an immigrant becomes an American citizen, does she lose her original nationality? Does that depend on whether you are, say, an Argentinean citizen (which permits dual nationality) or an Indian citizen (which does not)?It is ironic that America, the immigrant Mecca, has such difficulty embracing its naturalized citizens, when its law commands their allegiance and fidelity. By contrast, India, which has among the world’s most restrictive citizenship practices, can’t seem to break its bonds with overachieving nationals, who by law are obligated to renounce their Indian citizenship when they swear a foreign allegiance. Indeed, it claims into its bear hug even those without a credible association. Witness the joyous celebrations in India over NASA astronaut Sunita Williams and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, both of whom are U.S. born with no particular affinity for India. This October, after he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, British molecular biologist Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, who emigrated in 1972 from Tamil Nadu, complained of Indians “clogging up” his mailbox with congratulatory messages. India clings tenaciously to its globally reputed naturalized citizens even in death. Recently, the Indian government rejected as “absurd” a claim from Albania to return Albanian born Nobel laureate Mother Teresa’s remains from Calcutta, who, an Indian spokesman insisted “is resting in her own country, her own land.”Curious how India and America seem to have their citizenship wires crossed.  Related Itemslast_img read more