Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Smuggling Cuban baseball players

A federal court in Miami is hearing the case of baseball smugglers. That is, the seemingly ever growing number of people trying to smuggle Cuban baseball players out of the country and bring them to the United States. Attorneys of five accused smugglers wanted to use the “wet foot/dry foot” immigration policy as defense, saying that once the men were in the U.S., everything was legal. “Wet foot/dry foot” refers to the bizarre idea that if a Cuban reaches U.S. land, he or she can obtain asylum, but if caught in the water, they usually can’t (there is a hearing at which they must prove a “well founded fear of persecution”).

The judge refused to let them use that argument, which is fortunate. Otherwise any criminal activity would be perfectly acceptable as long as everyone managed to reach the U.S.

The entire issue of smuggling Cubans is troubling. Last year I wrote about the book The Duke of Havana, about Orlando Hernández’s odyssey to the U.S., which covered the same issue. Yes, it’s absurd that players cannot leave the country legally. But it’s all about greed, where Cuban players are promised fat MLB contracts and then many (or even most) are discarded if they can’t make a team. Of course, these same smugglers will take their cut, and if there is no payoff then they are no longer interested in the player.


Justin Delacour 12:38 PM  

There's an interesting scholarly article about this very subject in the Summer 2002 issue of Communication Studies. The article, by the communications scholars Afsheen J. Nomai and George N. Dionisopoulos, is entitled "Framing the Cubas narrative: The American dream and the capitalist reality."

Greg Weeks 1:39 PM  

Interesting--there's certainly no doubt that the U.S. media ignores those who left Cuba and ended up worse off, while glorifying the ones who made it. More interesting would be an empirical study of all Cubans who left for sports reasons and then what actually happened to them.

Unknown 2:19 PM  

I really liked this blog topic. Thanks for the insite.

Anonymous,  3:05 PM  


Lets get some numbers of how Cuban Americans actually do here. As I mentioned in class once, Jurgen told us that stats show that they have done better than any immigrant group in the US over the past 60 years(even better than Eastern European Jews). Even if they don't do "the best" my hunch is that they still do OK. Not meaining to sound like Jesse Helms here, but I would attempt to argue that they are still better off here than in Cuba. Don't know any of this for sure but this is an interesting topic for debate.

Greg Weeks 3:22 PM  

Perhaps, though I was referring more specifically to the baseball players, who face a different situation. The average Cuban, for example, is not told they can be an instant millionaire the way baseball players are.

Anonymous,  8:14 PM  

This post made me laugh. I tried to think of the most obscure Cuban players in recent years. Orestes Destrade comes to mind.

He was terrible with the Marlins, and he couldn't cut it in Japan either. Now he is with ESPN and XM radio. So, the message is that you too can be a MLB flop and still make it in America.

Jose Contreras, on the other hand, is Spanish for "Overrated". Yet he is still collecting on that ridiculous contract the Yankees gave him.

Come to think of it, has any Cuban import really been a big success in the majors besides Livan Hernandez and El Duque?

And lastly, is there a chance that we see Elian Gonzalez someday wearing Yankee pinstripes?

Greg Weeks 6:52 AM  

I am happy to see anyone--Cuban or otherwise--milk George Steinbrenner. But that's not the issue. Rather, I was referring to those players who never even sign a contract. They are left literally penniless, and in some cases are left outside the U.S. as well.

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