Sunday’s edition of the Arizona Republic features an article about Henry Cejudo, a gifted athlete from Phoenix.
Henry, the son of parents who at one point in time were “illegals” from Mexico, won a wrestling gold medal in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Henry was interviewed recently to ascertain his views about current efforts to deny children of undocumented immigrants what the Constitution grants unambiguously to every individual born in this country: U.S. citizenship. Although not “an anchor” baby himself (his mother became a documented immigrant before Henry’s birth), Henry identifies with them. He is quoted as saying, “That’s [denial of citizenship to illegals’ children] ridiculous. Are they going to take my gold medal back?”
After Henry won his gold medal in 2008, the Republic’s article reports, Senator McCain told Katie Couric, CBS new anchor, that Henry was someone “he would like to have dinner with.” I wonder how McCain, paladin of the anti-immigrant movement, reconciles his current views with his past invitation to Henry.
Henry is a true patriot. After his victory in Peking, Henry ran around the gymnasium floor wrapped in an American flag. He has stated that he would die for this country. But after his 2008 victory, right-wing talk radio asked for his mother’s deportation, in spite her being a legal U.S. resident since 1986.
As an immigrant myself, I empathize with Henry’s gratitude toward this country. But I have to regularly remind myself that assimilation has an oppressive side. The unsavory experiences provoked by the dominant racial frame become more evident as our knowledge of this society deepens.