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Immigrants of The Week : Joseph Chirlee and Varvara Lepchenko

by Greg Siskind


Private Joseph Chirlee, a soldier in the US Army, is doing his country proud. The Kenyan-born naturalized US citizen is also one of the world's best marathon runners. Soldier athletes have a long history of competing for our country, but regretably Joseph is being prevented from running in competition. International rules bar him from competing internationally for two years from naturalizing. That shouldn't bar him from competing in US-only competitions, but as was pointed out in today's NY Times, officials are preventing him from competing. A quick glance at the USA Track & Field governing manual seems to prohibit national origin discrimination and one wonders if there might be constitutional issues with discriminating against a citizen on the basis of how and when his citizenship was acquired.

Immigrant of the Day: Varvara Lepchenko - Tennis Player


OK, I've been meaning to end the hiatus on my Immigrant of the Day feature a long time back. I took a break because it takes a fair amount of time to do the research. But I'm giving it another go and welcome your suggestions. Just email me at

Today's honoree is Uzbekistan native Varvara Lepchenko who recently was sworn in as a US citizen. I think Varvara is also my first Uzbek to make the list. Varvara is 25 and has been competing professionally for 12 seasons. The Allentown, Pennsylvania resident has won 11 International Tennis Fedeation tournaments. She's competing this week in Memphis International indoor tournament right up the street from me. It's one of the top indoor tournaments in the country.

Varvara didn't come to the US the way many foreign athletes do - on a sports visa. Her family came when she was ten as political asylees. Which means they likely came with nothing and had to build a life here from scratch. The Memphis Commercial Appeal has a story today that talks about how becoming a citizen is not only rewarding personally, but is also helping her Tennis career.

About The Author

Greg Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.