Everyone is all “stick to sports” until politics deprive their favorite team of a shortstop.
OK, sure, that’s a flip way of putting it, but today Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch asks a legitimate question for Major League Baseball in the wake of Donald Trump’s election: will his inevitable changes to U.S. immigration policy impact the market for international players?
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.
Goold talks to agents and executives about it and they are, understandably, not offering much in the way of strong opinion yet. There’s a lot of uncertainty about a lot of Trump policies — he was not terribly detail-oriented when it came to specific laws he’d propose — and, of course, Major League Baseball has always tried to stay friendly with whatever administration is in power, so no one is going to rock the boat a couple of days after an election.
Still, it’s a question worth asking. 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?
There are a lot of changes coming to the United States after Donal Trump is sworn into office. Some of them will have an impact on baseball. The question Derrick Goold asks in this article is a good one.
UPDATE: To those of you who are saying that Trump’s policies only cover “illegals,” know that that is simply not true. He is proposing a tightening of visa-issuance and proposes to eliminate the family provisions of immigration/visa/asylum rules, the sort of which allows Venezuelan players to bring their familes here.
Rather than just say “that’s not what Trump meant” in response, take the president-elect at his word.