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Mac Engel: Subset of ballplayers, athletes highlights double standard in immigration – jj

Mac Engel: Subset of ballplayers, athletes highlights double standard in immigration


ARLINGTON, Texas — He came to this country illegally, and no one took exception because he could hit and catch a baseball.

Now Leonys Martin is basically unemployed, and chances are you are good with both how he, and his entire family, came to the U.S. Because he is good at baseball.

The former Cuban star and Texas Rangers’ big league career is nearly over. Two weeks ago, the Cleveland Indians designated the outfielder for assignment, but he opted for free agency.

It doesn’t matter. He made it.

What matters most is that a guy like Martin represents the double standard for illegals who want to come to the U.S. and pursue the American dream. If you can ball, no one will fuss if you jumped a wall.

No more does Lady Liberty’s promise of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” apply so freely.

When poet Emma Lazarus’ New Colossus was placed on a bronze plaque at the base of Statue of Liberty in 1903 the poem fit; we were a nation of 76 million.

Today, the figure is nearly 330 million, and yet The New Colossus is supposed to fit, despite math that says it needs adjustment. No liberal scholar can convince me otherwise.

And no one on the right can convince me we don’t need new people who come into our world, buy stuff and replace the dying population.

Let us update to a New-New Colossus: “Give me your able, willing, young bodied who can hit 3-pointer, throw a ball 101 mph with movement, score one bleeping goal in an international soccer match, win gold medals, and … learn English and not exploit our social services.”

Own it, because we have been OK with this regardless of how that immigrant crosses our border. It’s not about how the immigrant arrives but what they do when they make it across.

If that is what our government wants, it should modify the rules for Cuban players who aspire to play ball in the U.S. If not, the human trafficking of ball players continues as an industry.


Sitting in the visiting clubhouse at The Ballpark in Arlington, Martin no longer looks like the kid who fled Cuba to play for the Texas Rangers and made his big league debut in 2011, at the age of 23.

He is 31 and has been in America for 10 years.

“How I came here is not something I recommend, to defect, especially the way I did it,” he said.

Famously, Martin took a boat from Cuba to Mexico, where he was smuggled across the border to Laredo in 2009. His was a terrifying tale of exploitation. Of bribes. Of rival cartels. Of threats of kidnapping. Of threats of murder.

“I put my life on the line, and it was scary,” he said. “I thought I might die.”

When I asked him if it was worth it, he said: “That’s something I think about to myself. It was a really hard decision to leave my country and to come here. I had never seen a stop light before, except in movies. This was very hard.”

In December 2016, Martin testified in court against the “company” of people who scared him to death, took his money and used his family as leverage.

He was part of a case that said at least 25 players from Cuba were smuggled to the U.S. since 2004.


In April of this year, the Trump administration ended an agreement with MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation that allowed Cuban players a much easier — and safer — path to the U.S. to play pro ball. That agreement had been structured by the Obama administration in 2016.

The Trump administration argued that the previous agreement was a violation of trade laws. Specifically, the U.S. did not want to see a large portion of a player’s signing bonus essentially go to the Cuban government.

MLB wants the old deal in place because without it, the human trafficking of guys like Martin continues.

“I don’t think it’s going to be that easy to get that agreement back,” Martin said. “I hope they can find a way to do something. There are a lot of players there who dream to be the top players in Major League Baseball. I hope they find a way to make this happen.”

Immigration is, and will always be, the messiest mess.

If selective citizenship is what this current administration, and so many Americans, desire, own it. And be OK with the double standard you endorse.

That it’s not really about a wall, but rather if they can “play ball.”

So allow guys like Leonys Martin a safer path to the U.S., for he is the target of the New-New Colossus.


©2019 Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Visit the Fort Worth Star-Telegram at www.star-telegram.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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