Mitchell's letter to lawmakers
Below is the complete letter obtained by ESPN that was sent by Dean and Lynn Mitchell to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, petitioning that Clinton not pass an amendment that would grant Tanith Belbin to become a U.S. citizen and deny her son, David, a possible Olympic spot.
Lynn Mitchell also forward this letter to other lawmakers, via e-mail, making the same request:
URGENT ACTION NEEDED
Dear Senator Clinton:
We are writing to you with urgency about a matter that is of extreme importance to us and involves legislation that Senator Carl Levin has introduced and plans to speak about. By supporting and passing this amendment you could quite possibly be denying an Olympic spot to one of your own constituents, our son. Unfortunately we just found about it today.
We have cut and pasted the following from the internet from two of the many figure skating sites:
"Yesterday, Senator Levin of Michigan introduced legislation that will permit Tanith Belbin to become a citizen. We now urgently need people to contact their senators. Please call and ask them to support Senator Levin's "EB-1" amendment which is being offered today or tomorrow on the Senate floor as part of the Labor/HHS Appropriations bill and to express their support to Senator Levin. It really should be no more complicated than that."
"Legislation To Be Introduced that Will Permit Tanith Belbin To Become U.S. Citizen:
(10/25/06) - Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) yesterday introduced legislation that would permit U.S. ice dancer Tanith Belbin, along with numerous other individuals in similar situations, to become a U.S. citizen by providing them the benefit of immigration rules that have changed since they began their citizenship efforts.
Belbin and ice dancing partner Ben Agosto are favorites to make the 2006 U.S. Olympic Team. As a team, the two have won consecutive U.S. Championship titles and a silver medal at the 2005 World Figure Skating Championships, which marked the highest placement for a U.S. team in 30 years.
Belbin, a native of Kirkland, Quebec, Canada, was approved in November 2000 for an EB-1 (employment-based) visa, which is given to those individuals deemed "aliens of extraordinary ability." It took another 18 months for Belbin to receive her green card. In 2002, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services changed the rules, allowing EB-1s to receive their green card and visa at the same time. If this policy had been in place at the time Belbin received her visa, she would be eligible for citizenship this November.
Levin is calling for the waiting period between when a person receives his or her green card and when he or she can become eligible for citizenship to be shortened from five to three years, provided a) he or she has been approved for EB-1 status and b) would require citizenship to represent the U.S. in an international event.
In the next day or two, Senator Levin will go to the Senate floor to formally introduce the legislation. After it is debated, it will be voted on, requiring a majority vote to be passed."
Although Tanith Belbin is a lovely and talented girl, she is a Canadian citizen who skates with an American partner.
There has been a concerted effort to have her citizenship "fast-tracked" because she and her partner are the top-ranked team in the US and they won a medal at the World Championships in March.
They train in Detroit. Senator Levin is trying in cooperation with Tanith's attorneys to get this legislation (which was fashioned specifically to fit her) tacked on to an appropriation bill rushed through in order to get her US citizenship status prior to the end of the year so that she can represent the US at the Olympics.
Ordinarily, because Ms. Belbin did not turn 18 until 2002, she would need to wait until 2007 to gain citizenship. The article and legislation only refer to when she got her EB-1 permit, not the fact that she couldn't apply for her green card before turning 18, giving only a partial truth. She was born July 11, 1984 in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
We feel strongly that this would be US citizenship in name only since she does not have to give up her Canadian passport or revoke her Canadian citizenship.
Our son, David Mitchell, was actually born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and we moved to Cortland, N.Y., where we have a medical practice, when David was 6 weeks old.
David's permanent residence is Cortland, and he trains in his sport (ice-dancing) in Stamford, Connecticut. David and his skating partner Loren Galler-Rabinowitz were both born in this country. They are currently 23 and 19 and have been training and competing together (sacrificing much) for 8 years.
David even managed to earn a Political Science degree from Tufts University in 4 years while simultaneously training and competing and representing the US in international competition. They were 4th and The 2003 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic, as well as 2000 Novice National Champions and 2002 Junior National Champions of the United States. They were the 2004 Bronze Medalists at the US Championships. This is their website: http://www.ice-dance.com/grm/
Last January at the 2005 championships they were unable to compete because David had extensive surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. After a very intense rehab period for David, they are back competing. They placed 2nd at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships in August, recently placed 4th representing the US at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, and will be representing the US at the Cup of Russia next month in St. Petersburg, Russia. They have focused solely on improving their craft each year and earning one of the spots on the 2006 Olympic team at this year's upcoming Championships.
Only teams where both members are US citizens are eligible to compete in the Olympics. Loren has been accepted to Harvard (and Yale) and has deferred admission (last year and this year) until after this upcoming Olympic season.
They have worked very hard, and played by all the established rules for representing the US in international competitions. In our obviously personal opinion, no team where both are U.S. born citizens should risk not getting an Olympic spot because the rules were bent or changed to help someone who is not currently a citizen.
We would really appreciate anything you could do to try to prevent this measure from being passed. Since David and Loren train in Connecticut, perhaps you could also enlist the assistance of Senators Leiberman (who actually has met Loren on several occasions) and Dodd, if you agree that this legislation does a disservice to David & Loren and all the other teams vying for an Olympic spot who currently have US citizenship.
Thank you for any assistance you can give us.
Dean Mitchell, MD and Lynn Mitchell