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What the Olympics Should Teach Us About Immigration Law Reform And Attitudes

The Rio 2016 Olympics in Brazil have now completed their first weekend of inspired and dramatic competition. This year’s Olympic games feature 11,000 athletes from 206 nations, including for the first time ever, athletes competing under the Olympic Flag as refugees from countries experiencing tremendous strife. At a time when immigration attitudes and immigration law reform is a subject of fierce debate in both the United States and Europe, the Olympic spirit brings the world together to show that we have much more in common as a world society ¬†than we have differences. So what should the Olympics teach all of us about immigration law reform and attitudes towards international immigration in general?

First, it should teach us that any country is far better as a result of immigration and the valuable contributions immigrants can make to a country’s cultural fabric. The United States is a temporary, and in many cases permanent, home to many international athletes. According to the athletics department website of the University of Southern California (USC), current USC Trojan student-athletes represent 20 countries in the 2016 Olympics, in addition to the United States. Katinka Hosszu of Hungary, who on the first full day of the games set a world record and won a gold medal in swimming, is an alumnus of USC and now runs a very successful swimming apparel business brand in addition to her swimming activities. Not only does she contribute to the culture and pride of her home country, her success also reflects her contributions made to US swimming culture as a student-athlete at USC.

immigrant contributions to the US athletic culture is not limited to just athletes themselves. Foreign born coaches who have immigrated to the United States also have made tremendous contributions to the success of US athletic programs on the world scene. The US Women’s National Soccer Team’s head coach, Jill Ellis, was born in the UK and immigrated to the United States with her family as a teenager. The highly decorated USA gymnastics team has been coached for decades by Marta and Bela Karolyi, the world famous coaches who immigrated to the United States from Romania in 1981. The contributions of these immigrant head coaches has resulted in numerous gold medals for the USA and have inspired millions of America’s youth to pursue their dreams embodied by their role models in these sports.

This cultural exchange of immigrant athletes and coaches across the world, fosters good will and camaraderie and success across nations and societies. The epic parties in the Olympic Village is evidence of this. The Olympics and the spirit of international good will the games foster should teach us that immigration law reform in the United States and Europe that encourages positive contributions from international immigrants to our nations is essential to the future cultural and economic health of our societies.

Second, the Olympics teaches us that generalized stereotypes of a nation and their populations, or of religions, are unfair and very often way off the mark. Perhaps an athlete that smashes stereotypes more than any other in this year’s Olympic games, is Yusra Mardini of Syria. Ms. Mardini is participating under the Olympic flag as a refugee from the war-torn country of Syria in various swimming events. If you do not know her story, please google her name and read the many articles written about her and watch the many videos of her inspirational story. She is a hero for so very many reasons, and an inspiration to us all. She is living proof that refugees in the vast bulk of cases, simply want a life the same as you and I. A life in which to pursue dreams and happiness. In this way, the Olympics teaches us that immigration law reform and attitudes should be based on observations and real people, not on fictional generalized stereotypes which are very often wrong.

So as we all watch this year’s exciting Olympics games in Rio, let’s also contemplate the tremendous positive role that immigration law and policy contributes to our societies in the United States and across the world, and how immigration law reform that encourages such contributions should be vigorously pursued.