PolitiFact: Pelosi tries to score with soccer tweet but boots it

This article was edited for length. To see a complete version and its sources, go to www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/jun/19/nancy-pelosi/are-there-immigrants-2014-us-mens-world-cup-team/.

Says 11 soccer players on the U.S. Men’s National Team are immigrants.

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in a tweet Tuesday

The United States is officially overcome with World Cup fever, and its inhabitants are showing support for the red, white and blue in many ways. Of course, for federal lawmakers it means backing America with their thumbs by tweeting pro-U.S.A. rally cries to their followers and constituents.

While the quadrennial event has generally united Democrats and Republicans, not all the social media cheering was free of politics. After the United States’ thrilling 2-1 victory Monday over Ghana, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made a push for immigration legislation by invoking the U.S. Men’s National Team.

She tweeted: “Immigrants help drive America’s success, even in the World Cup! Look at what #USMNT would be without them. #TimeIsNow.” By Thursday evening, it had been retweeted and favorited almost 1,000 times.

The tweet included a graphic that showed 11 U.S. players with minuses next to their pictures and names. Pelosi’s tweet said those 11 players are immigrants who would likely not be on the roster if they weren’t allowed in the country.

Much has been made about the number of U.S. players who have dual citizenships, but is America’s World Cup team powered by immigrants?

We researched the backgrounds of the 11 players highlighted in the graphic.

Six were actually born in America. So even though they may have parents who are from other countries, they are very much considered citizens, not immigrants.

Jozy Altidore: Born in Livingston, N.J., to two Haitian-born parents.

Alejandro Bedoya: Born in Englewood, N.J., to two Colombian-born parents

Julian Green: Born in Tampa, Fla., to an American serviceman father and a German mother; moved to Germany with his mother as a young child.

Tim Howard: Born in New Brunswick, N.J., to an African-American father and his Hungarian mother.

Aron Johannsson: Born in Mobile, Ala., to Icelandic parents.

Omar Gonzalez: Born in Dallas to Mexican parents.

The other five were not born in the United States but have at least one parent who is an American. (In four of the cases, their fathers were in the U.S. military serving abroad.) That entitles them all to U.S. citizenship, meaning they did not have to go through the immigration process noncitizens do.

John Brooks: Born in Berlin to an American serviceman father and a German mother.

Timmy Chandler: Born in Frankfurt, Germany, to an American serviceman father and a German mother.

Mix Diskerud: Born in Oslo, Norway, to a Norwegian father and an American mother.

Fabian Johnson: Born in Munich, Germany, to an American serviceman father and a German-born mother who had an American father.

Jermaine Jones: Born in Frankfurt, Germany, to an American serviceman father and German mother.

So not only are none of these 11 individuals considered immigrants by the United States, they’re all actually natural-born citizens.

Pelosi’s office told us the source of the graphic is a story posted on Business Insider from Global Post.

The story noted that a number of far-right nationalist parties with anti-foreigner sentiments seem to be on the rise in Europe. Some countries are also considering anti-immigration legislation that would put stricter quotas on new inhabitants.

Therefore, the author wanted to imagine what these teams would look like without immigrants. To do this, he singled out players with at least one foreign-born parent. As Vox’s Dara Lind pointed out: “That might make sense for other countries, where parentage is more important to citizenship. But it doesn’t make any sense for the U.S., where nearly everyone has some sort of immigrant heritage, and where everyone born on U.S. soil is a citizen from birth.”

We took all this to Pelosi’s office. Spokesman Drew Hammill said they weren’t claiming these players were immigrants, rather, “We’re merely echoing the point made by the creators of the graphic about the contributions of these sons of immigrants.”

But not even all the foreign-born parents are actually immigrants. Timmy Chandler, for example, stayed in Germany with his German mother after he was born.

So by no definition is the United States represented by immigrants at the World Cup. That’s not to say immigrants or immigration aren’t important to the makeup and heritage of the team. The United States is a country built on immigrants, and each player on the team can trace back at least half his lineage to another country (there is one half Native American on the team, forward Chris Wondolowski).

But that’s not the message Pelosi was trying to give with her tweet. If it was, you could have whited out the entire team.

Our ruling

In a tweet pushing for immigration legislation, Pelosi posted a picture of the U.S. Men’s National Team missing 11 of its players and tweeted “Immigrants help drive America’s success, even in the World Cup! Look at what #USMNT would be without them.” In this instance “them” means immigrants. But none of those 11 players are immigrants. Some aren’t even the children of immigrants.

We rate the statement False.