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Will Venezuelan ballplayers soon have trouble getting into the U.S.?

World Baseball Classic - Miami Day 1

MIAMI - MARCH 14: Venezuela fans cheer with a country flag while taking on the Netherlands during round 2 of the World Baseball Classic at Dolphin Stadium on March 14, 2009 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

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Back in November, we talked about whether then-president-elect Trump’s immigration policies would have any impact on Major League Baseball. It was grounded in speculation, of course, because we had no idea what Trump might implement. His campaign was never firm on specifics, obviously, and no one knew what he might actually do once in office.

In the past week we’ve seen what he’s done with respect seven specific countries: suspending immigration entirely for a set period, including restricting people who were already visa or green card holders who had lived and worked in the United States. What happens after the set period is unclear, but there will no doubt be greater restrictions and scrutiny of those seeking to enter the United States.

As this is not an international affairs blog, we’ll leave that aside for a moment. But as a baseball blog, news that the Trump Administration may extend similar immigration restrictions to Latin American countries is of relevance:

According to the Colombian radio station, the US embassy in Bogota is set to announce tougher requirements that would make traveling to the United States for Colombians more difficult than it already is. While the radio station did not say which requirements would be made more difficult, Blu Radio implied that it could affect the automatic extension of visas, meaning that Colombians who already have a visa could be obligated to undergo renewed scrutiny and repeated interviews by embassy officials . . .

Many reports strongly suggest that Venezuela will be covered by similar restrictions. As you know, a lot of baseball players come from Venezuela.

A couple of observations on this:

  • When we first talked about this in November, reader sentiment tended to be “this stuff will affect new immigrants and refugees, not people with jobs and permanent residence and all of that.” Welp, that was certainly not the case with the restrictions put in place on the seven Middle East countries last week. People who have long had U.S. green cards and work visas, including people in medical, academic and engineering fields, and their families, have been caught up in it and have been unable to enter the country, even if they’ve lived here a while. As such, saying “this will not affect baseball players, who are uniquely-skilled entertainers” may be incorrect.
  • Even assuming an extension of restrictions to Latin American countries is handled less ham-handedly than last week’s restrictions and no ballplayer is simply denied entry, they will almost certainly be placed under more scrutiny when they attempt to return. That could likewise have implications, as we saw post-September 11, when a number of players were found to have lied about their ages and identities, only to have their deception revealed after security was tightened.

Major League Baseball is a sport that relies on a large number of immigrants here on temporary travel documents to function. We’re in a world right now where such folks are under fire. Maybe it doesn’t ever touch Major League Baseball, but I bet people at MLB headquarters and the MLBPA, not to mention team offices, are monitoring all of this closely. And, maybe, strongly suggesting that players who are currently in Latin America report extra early for spring training.

Follow @craigcalcaterra