Craig Calcaterra of NBC’s Hardball Talk re-asked a question posed by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Wednesday. That question: Will Donald Trump’s changes to the U.S. immigration system effect the market for international players in Major League Baseball?
According to Goold, “The election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States leaves baseball, more than any other professional sport, to consider what the immigration policies he proposed during the campaign could mean for acquiring talent. The President-elect and his running mate, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, have both argued for tighter restrictions on immigration from Mexico. Trump pledged to build a wall between the two countries. He and Pence have both said at various times during the campaign that they would outright undo Obama’s push to normalizing relationships with Cuba, or rethink the approach.”
Calcaterra addresses Goold’s point in depth:
While Trump’s immigration position has stressed crackdowns on illegal immigration, the implementation of new laws and regulations always brings with it unexpected consequences. Most ballplayers from other countries get work visas to play here, but what happens if a player gets a DUI in the Dominican Republic and a tough new regulation dealing with immigrants with criminal records takes effect? Could a player who never had trouble getting into the United States for the baseball season before face new hurdles?
And what of asylum matters? It seems likely that new scrutiny will be exerted there as, in all cases, we can assume that the laws will get tougher, not looser. A few years ago Wilson Ramos was kidnapped in Venezuela and, afterward, moved his entire family to the United States for their safety. Could a player do so if it happened in 2018 and the laws have changed? And what of players who have never before been here? Maybe someone who broke in five years ago is immune, but are new visa applicants going to face tougher restrictions?
Though not strictly limited to illegal immigration, Donald Trump primarily campaigned on fixing illegal immigration. Most ballplayers don’t get here by illegally crossing the southern border. They get here, as Calcaterra says, via work visas. So it’s highly unlikely that the border wall will ever become an impediment to MLB teams acquiring talent from Latin America.
What happens if a player commits a crime in another country and can’t get a visa to come to the United States? Well, in a word, tough. Donald Trump got elected, in large part, to keep criminals out of this country. If that costs the Diamondbacks a future All-Star shortstop, our country will find a way to overcome it.
When it comes to asylum, the United States has historically welcomed people fleeing their countries, specifically people fleeing for political asylum from countries such as Venezuela and Cuba where Major league Baseball finds tons of talent.
Unless, of course, you’re Elian Gonzalez, the most famous and highly publicized extradition of a Cuban national in our history. Who was president when that went down?
To be clear, some weird future circumstance may well arise where a baseball player gets denied a visa due to some reform by Donald Trump. Though surely the Border Patrol SWAT team won’t need to get involved.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn