Why Shouldn’t Baseball Star Jose Abreu Be Deported?

No,no,no! Not “passport to eating,” EATING A PASSPORT!

There was a trial, still ongoing,  in a Federal court in Miami last week, where sports agent Bartolo Hernandez and baseball trainer Julio Estrada were tried before a jury for alien smuggling and conspiracy. Prosecutors say they operated a ring that took Cuban players from the Castros’ island to other countries where they could established residency and sign lucrative Major League Baseball contracts.  The big surprise in the trial came when star Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu told a Miami federal jury Wednesday how he ate his fake passport while flying to the U.S. to cover up the fact that he was arriving illegally as a prime participant in the smuggling operation.

Abreu said he ordered a beer on an Air France flight from Haiti to Miami and used it to wash down the section of his passport showing a false name with  his photo. The reason the unique meal was urgent? Money. Abreu was about to  miss an October 2013 deadline that would forfeit the $68 million agreement he had in place withe White Sox.

“If I had not been there on that particular day, the deadline, then the contract would not be executed and would no longer be valid,” Abreu told jurors. “We had to be in Chicago to sign the contract.”

Ah. Then that’s all right, then!

Abreu the was American League Rookie of the Year in 2014. He  testified under a grant of limited immunity, meaning he wouldn’t be prosecuted if he told the truth on the witness stand.  Jurors learned that the slugger got the fake passport in Haiti, where he and his family had escaped to from Cuba by speedboat in August 2013. One of the associates of Hernandez and Estrada—naturally, the smugglers got a cut of Abreu’s contract—obtained the fake passport and booked the Air France flight, telling the ballplayer to destroy the document on the plane. .

He did not tell him to eat it.

When Abreu arrived  in Miami, the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy recently rescinded President Barack Obama allowed him to remain in the U.S., though he had reached  American soil without travel documents. That’s right: no documents were OK. Fake documents were not.

Abreu, who hit 25 home runs and drove in 100 runs last season, was given time off from White Sox spring training camp in Arizona to testify in  Miami. Asks Jonathan Turley (full disclosure for the professor: he’s Cubs fan) ,”…[R]egardless of his immunity, [Abreu] has admitted to criminal conduct in using the illegal passport obtained in Haiti. Everyone else was indicted, including his main facilitator…So he gets to just keep playing baseball in the major leagues?”

I share Turley’s discomfort with this. If the Trump administration is going to deport illegal immigrants for old DUI charges, why should Abreu be treated more leniently for participating in a smuggling ring? Because he’s a rich baseball player? We deport the poor illegal immigrants who break laws, but not the famous rich ones?

If the program wants to demonstrate integrity, it should send Abreu back to Haiti and let him apply for a visa to play ball.

They should also remind him not to eat it.


Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur

Facts: ESPN

16 thoughts on “Why Shouldn’t Baseball Star Jose Abreu Be Deported?

  1. The only reason I can think for not prosecuting him is the deal he cut before testifying. I would reluctantly avoid prosecution because undoing the deal probably has further reaching consequences. Not that I would be happy with that result because it opens the door to “Hey! Let’s cut deals as witnesses to avoid prosecution” defenses for deportation. I would certainly give a stern talking too or worse to whoever offered that deal.

    Or maybe I’m talking out of my ass and have completely misunderstood how immunity deals work (IANAL, etc.)

  2. Send him home. Send the message that money does not give you a pass. What better way to say we are a nation of laws, not men.

      • The problem is… that immunity deal.

        Abreu was given immunity. So, what he said on the stand cannot be used against him. Now granted, immunity may or may not affect immigration law, but they told Abreu if he told the truth, he had immunity.

        You have to honor the deal you made. Deporting Abreu would not be honoring it.

        • That’s not right. Immunity from being prosecuted for a crime doesn’t mean that one has immunity from consequences of committing it. For example, immunity wouldn’t stop a crime from violating the terms of probation, if that’s what a judge determined.

  3. I am missing the point. If he had smuggled himself in the wheel well of the plane, it would not matter. It does not ( or did not) matter how you got here (if you were from Cuba), if you got here, you are okay. That is the policy. Now, maybe that policy encourages this behavior. But, if our policy happens to encourage reprehensible behavior that is still consistent with our policy, what do we do. As far as I can tell, he did not violate our policy. Maybe our policy on Cubans was dumb, but, if we if we iterate a dumb policy, should it be a surprise if they believe what the policy says.

  4. I don’t think there’s anything the feds can do here, directly, to Abreu. He’s been immunized for the action that got him here illegally, and U.S. immigration policy at the time of his entry grants him essentially immunity from 18 USC 1325. The policy triggers the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, meaning that the Cubs are also off the hook for employing an illegal alien.

    Honestly, money isn’t the issue here. He is legally entitled, by our own executive authority and acts of Congress, to be here. His crimes in this case were fraudulent documentation, of which the only known evidence is his immunized testimony. “Wet feet, dry feet” presumes illegal entry into the United States.

    So in response to your points, I agree that the most ethical course would be to deport him and require him to obtain entry legally. Unfortunately, I don’t see a way for the USA to do that. The judiciary would surely forbid it for all the aforementioned reasons, and the feds can’t bring forgery charges based on the immunized testimony. Unless he committed another violation not revealed by the immunized testimony, there’s nothing to be done.

    This isn’t a rich-poor thing. If he were broke, there appears to be nothing the feds could do, either.

    • Immunity from prosecution when one admits to a crime does no convey immunity from other consequences of committing that crime. He is an illegal immigrant, and there is no immunity from having to pay that piper. There is also no difference, in deciding priorities for deportation, between saying “we’ll deport criminals” and “we’ll deport criminals who for various reasons can;t be prosecuted.” Right?

      • Okay, so let’s inquire into this further; I am going to assume, without having seen the court documents, that the prosecution granted him use immunity; that means that the prosecution is estopped from using the testimony or evidence derived from that testimony against the witness giving it in a criminal matter.

        According to 18 USC 6002:

        and the person presiding over the proceeding communicates to the witness an order issued under this title, the witness may not refuse to comply with the order on the basis of his privilege against self-incrimination; but no testimony or other information compelled under the order (or any information directly or indirectly derived from such testimony or other information) may be used against the witness in any criminal case, except a prosecution for perjury, giving a false statement, or otherwise failing to comply with the order. [my emphasis]

        So when you say “consequences,” what I am reading is that the prosecution may derive from that immunized testimony the cause of action to deport him. I don’t think they can, as long as he doesn’t perjure himself, etc.

        As I said above, the “wet foot, dry foot” policy assumes illegal entry, grants automatic parole, and under that policy he is not here illegally. That policy makes him a legal resident alien.

        So under what rubric would the USA proceed with civil deportation? He is here legally under US policy in effect at the time. His actions to get here, and a derivative cause of action from them, have been immunized, including, it seems to me, the ability to revoke the automatic parole granted by “wet foot, dry foot.” So explain to me how he would be deported, and then we’ll be in agreement.

        You can’t just deport a legal resident alien because you feel like it, and they can’t use his immunized testimony as a criminal cause of action for the civil deportation proceeding, as far as I can tell, it seems like it would be a violation of the Fifth Amendment. I could be wrong about that part, but I don’t think so.

        • “He is here legally under US policy in effect at the time.” He’s not! He arrived under false pretenses…hence the eaten passport. He wasn’t a Cuban refugee. He was an illegal Haitian immigrant posing as a Cuban refugee. That’s why he would be deported—moved up in the line because of the crime he admitted to under oath.

          • The crime is immunized and inadmissible, but you’re right – if he’s a Haitian, he could be deported. They don’t really need the crime of fraudulent paperwork to do that, and they can’t use it anyway.

  5. He should be deported, and play baseball in Cuba or Haiti — the country of his choice — for $25 a day. Or, apply for a legal visa to play baseball here as so many other players have done. He was used, yes, but knew what he was doing. Just because he’s a baseball star offers him nothing in terms of the law. His deportation would be a good lesson in the workings of the law in the US. Let’s see if we have the nerve to apply the law evenly, regardless of the notoriety of the criminal.

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