Golden example of what all kids can become
Arizona Daily Star
Aug 22, 2008


Our view: Son of illegal immigrants wins gold medal in Beijing; others like him are ready to share talents with nation

Tucson, Arizona | Published:

On Tuesday, a former Arizonan who lives in Colorado Springs became the youngest American ever to win a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the Olympic Games.

The 21-year-old, who has been called "the future of American wrestling" by his coaches, proudly ran around a Beijing gymnasium wrapped in the Stars and Stripes after winning the gold-medal match.

Several of his siblings and many friends also proudly showed the flag as they cheered him to victory. They were so boisterous, in fact, that Chinese officials nearly threw them out of the gym.

"I'm living the American dream right now," the wrestler told an NBC interviewer. "I'm holding my flag."

Sounds like a typical American Olympic story, right?

Except this Olympic hero was born to illegal immigrants.

Henry Cejudo is an example of what can happen when the children of illegal immigrants are given the opportunity to prosper.

Nothing was handed to him. As we've seen time and time again at these Olympics, medals don't come easily. Cejudo, who won two high-school state championships while at Phoenix's Maryvale High School, worked extremely hard and earned his gold medal with sweat and determination, as other American athletes.

"I'm proud of my Mexican heritage," Cejudo told The Associated Press. "But I'm an American. It's the best country in the world."

There are young men and women like Cejudo all over the country. Not all of them are athletes. Some would like to become doctors or lawyers, teachers or engineers, professors or entrepreneurs.

Their talents might not bring Olympic glory, but they would help make the United States competitive in other ways, such as producing better products or ideas.

For decades, they've had the opportunity to reach their dreams, but in recent years some states, including Arizona, have tried to make it harder for them to achieve success.

The children of illegal immigrants who are born in the United States, as Cejudo was, are often dehumanized and called "anchor babies." Some anti-illegal-immigrant activists see something insidious in their births. They say the parents are using kids as a way to remain in the country forever. They fail to see the babies as the result of humans being humans.

Such bigoted attitudes led to two proposed ballot initiatives in Arizona last year that would have prohibited hospitals from giving birth certificates to the newborns of non-citizens in effect denying birthright citizenship.

We editorialized in December against the proposed initiatives and, thankfully, neither of them made it onto November's ballot.

Young illegal immigrants face systematic discrimination.

In 2006, Arizona voters approved Proposition 300, a Legislature-created initiative that prohibits non-citizens from paying in-state tuition at state universities and colleges. Non-citizen students must pay out-of-state rates even though their parents may have paid property and sales taxes in Arizona for years.

On the federal level, Congress failed to pass the Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act (STRIVE Act of 2007), which would give illegal-immigrant children a pathway to citizenship if they go to college or join the military.

We've said before that creating laws that punish the children of illegal immigrants are unnecessarily punitive and counterproductive. Such rules punish innocents for the acts of their parents. If such children are going to become adults in America, it makes more sense to help them become educated, productive members of society.

The children of illegal immigrants, like all children, are blank slates. They have the potential to become great Americans.

They can become doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, professors, entrepreneurs . . . anything. Some can even become Olympic champions.

Henry Cejudo celebrates his gold in the 55-kilogram (121-pound) class. He's the youngest U.S. Olympic freestyle wrestling champion in history.