Wednesday, July 30, 2014

There are actually no immigrants on the US soccer team. And that's weird.

Everyone in this picture is a US citizen except Jurgen Klinsmann. Kevin C. Cox/Getty

A viral graphic, tweeted by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and others, purports to show that without immigrants, the United States would lose most of its World Cup soccer team. Here's Pelosi's tweet:

It makes sense that the US men's national team would be dominated by immigrants. After all, America is a nation of immigrants — and many of the biggest immigrant populations in America are from countries, like Mexico, where soccer is more popular than it is in the United States.

There's just one problem: all of the players in that graphic are actually native-born US citizens.

The graphic is from an article on GlobalPost that tried to imagine what every team in the tournament would look like without immigrants. But instead of eliminating players based on their citizenship status, or where they were born, they eliminated players who had at least one parent who'd been born in another country.

That might make sense for other countries, where parentage is more important to citizenship. But it doesn't make any sense for the US, where nearly everyone has some sort of immigrant heritage, and where everyone born on US soil is a citizen from birth.

Not all of the US players were actually born in the United States — five of them were born in Europe. But even in those cases, they had "derivative citizenship." Mix Diskerud was born in Norway to an American mother, which automatically granted him citizenship. John Brooks, Timothy Chandler, Jermaine Jones, and Fabian Johnson were all born in Germany, with fathers who were US servicemen — that doesn't automatically qualify someone for citizenship, unlike having an American mother does, but each of their families met additional criteria that made them citizens at birth.

The graphic makes it seem like the US soccer team reflects America's immigrant heritage. And in some ways, it does — many players have dual citizenship, and even more trace their heritage back to two or more countries or continents. And the coach of the US team, Jurgen Klinsmann, has lived in the US for many years, but is still solely a German citizen. But there aren't any players on the US team who are immigrants themselves. (In fairness, some of this is probably due to FIFA policies that make it difficult for players to choose to represent their adopted countries.)

Ironically, 2014 might be the last year for a while that the US soccer team is entirely made up of native-born citizens. Two top American soccer prospects are green-card holders who are contemplating getting citizenship and playing for the national team: Diego Fagundez (born in Uruguay) and Kekuta Manneh (born in the Gambia).

That raises the question: instead of an example of America's immigrant diversity today, is it possible that the US soccer team is an example of something that could be even better with more diversity in the future?

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