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Bloggings On Immigration Law And Policy

by Greg Siskind

Editor's note: Here are the latest entries from Greg Siskind's blog.

July 24, 2008


Malaythong The other day I named Howard Bach, the Vietnamese-born badminton Olympian as my Immigrant of the Day. Today, I'm honoring Khan Bob Malaythong, his doubles partner. Malaythong is a Laotian native who came to the US when he was eight years old. He only naturalized in 2006 and it was the inability to naturalize in a timely manner that knocked the player Malaythong replaced out of contention for the Olympic team. Bach and Malaythong are the #1 ranked team in the United States and ranked in the top 20 internationally. Bach and Malaythong have the obvious goal of wanting a medal in Beijing, but they're also working hard to raise the profile of the sport of badminton in the US. They recently starred in a well-received commercial for the new Coca Cola product Vitamin Water. Malaythong will be on the David Letterman show next month.

Bob Malaythong has a great immigration story and he's one of the few athletes I've seen that recount their journey in any detail. Check out his personal account on his web site. Hi sister was the first in his family to come and she took a very dangerous trip to get here that almost resulted in her death. She was able to acquire legal status in the US and ten years later she was able to bring her younger brother to the US. Malaythong's family was desperately poor and you can see photos on Malaythong's web site showing him with a bulging stomach that is an ironic sign of malnourishment.

Remarkably, within two years of his arrival in the US, he won the junior national badminton title and has risen steadily to the top of the sport over the years. But unlike athletes in more popular sports who can earn lucrative salaries, Malaythong faced an ongoing struggle of how to financially assist his destitute family, most of whom were still in Laos without dropping out of his sport. And he faced the ongoing stress of being separated from siblings who he had not seen since leaving Laos as a youngster. In fact, it was only when he competed in Thailand in 2003 that he as able to see two of his sisters for the first time since they were separated in 1990.

Bob's story is the classic tale of how refugees coming from the worst conditions can achieve great heights when given a chance in a place like America. He proudly proclaims on his web site that he's the first Laotian American Olympican and I wish him luck in becoming the first Laotian American to win an Olympic medal.