American University
Mohawk brothers, Phillip and Thomas Barrerio aspire to compete in the Olympic Games.

Wrestling Brothers Aim For Olympics, While Grappling with Citizenship Issue

Sam Laskaris

Brothers Thomas and Phillip Barreiro are hoping to represent Canada in the Olympics some day.

Besides needing to earn qualifying spots, the 25-year-old Mohawk twin brothers, who both compete in Greco-Roman wrestling events, are also patiently waiting for an immigration issue to be resolved. Though they have spent the majority of their lives in Canada, the brothers hold American citizenship and were born in Ithaca, N.Y.Though they were allowed to compete in the Canadian Greco-Roman championships the past two years, the Barreiros are forbidden from representing the country at major international events such as this year's Pan American Games or future Olympics until they officially become Canadian citizens.

"I've spent my whole life believing I'm a Canadian citizen," said Phillip Barreiro. "It is what it is though, and we've just got to go through the process to get our citizenship. While I wish we didn't have to go through this, I can only control what I can control."

The Barreiros felt they already were Canadians since they possess Indian status cards, issued by the federal government. These status cards have allowed the brothers to travel freely through the Canadian/US borders.

"We don't have passports," Thomas Barreiro said. "We've never really needed them."

And though you do not need to be a Canadian citizen to have one, the brothers also both have Social Insurance Number cards, issued by the Canadian government that allow them to work in the country. Thomas works as a sports, fitness and recreation co-ordinator for the Akwesasne Boys and Girls Club in his community while Phillip is a court administrator in Akwesasne, N.Y.

Phillip and Thomas Barrerio, center. (American University)

The brothers, who train out of a Montreal-based club called Team Impact, have been wrestling since they were in Grade 8. They both attended and competed at American University in Washington, D.C., graduating in 2013.

Phillip took top honors in the 85-kilogram category, at the 2014 Canadian championships, which were staged in Edmonton. And at this year's nationals, which were held in St. Catharines, Ontario, Thomas won the gold medal in the 85-kilogram division while Phillip dropped down to the 75-kilogram class and won the silver medal.

"I had to get Phillip out of my weight class to win," Thomas said.

Despite being a reigning Canadian champion, Thomas will not be allowed to participate in this summer's Pan American Games in Toronto since he does not have Canadian citizenship.

The brothers said they have not been given any sort of indication of when they might be granted their Canadian citizenship. But they have officials from Wrestling Canada in their corner. "They've written letters asking for an expedited process," Phillip said.

While the brothers are hoping to become Canadian citizens in time to qualify for next year's Olympics in Rio de Janiero in Brazil, they are also keen to still be competing and take part in the 2020 Summer Olympics.

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