Deportation Threat Hangs Over Suspended Baseball Star

We often have warned our readers that almost any crime – no matter how trivial it seems – can lead to serious immigration problems, even removal (deportation). [See Beware: Serious Immigration Consequences of Shoplifting, MurthyDotCom, 17.Oct.2011.)

The latest cautionary tale comes from the world of baseball. San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera recently got slapped with a 50-game suspension for using synthetic testosterone, a banned substance. [See Attorney: Slugger Cabrera Jeopardizes Right to Remain in the U.S., by Rosa Ramirez, National Journal, 21.Aug. 2012.] Not a good career move, to say the least, but Cabrera, a native of the Dominican Republic, may have far bigger problems to worry about. According to National Journal, Rick Sutcliffe, a retired major league pitcher and current ESPN commentator, is calling for Cabrera’s visa to be revoked.

It could happen, attorney Jon Velie told the National Journal, if the athlete’s offense constitutes a crime, not just a violation of league rules. Federal investigators are now exploring that possibility. The New York Daily News reports that Major League Baseball is working with federal law enforcement to determine “the source for the banned and illegal drug for which Cabrera tested positive, and whether a crime was committed in the attempt to create false evidence.” [See MLB ‘Fed’ Up After Melky Makes Mockery of Drug Policy, by Teri Thompson, Michael O’Keeffe, and Nathaniel Vinton, New York Daily News, 19.Aug.2012.] According to the Daily News, the “false evidence” refers to a fictitious website that an associate of Cabrera’s set up, “featuring a nonexistent sports cream,” in an apparent attempt to create an innocent explanation for Cabrera’s violation of the steroid ban.

As we noted in the InfoArticle on MurthyDotCom, a person can be put into removal proceedings if s/he is convicted of a crime of moral turpitude within five years of entering the United States, even if the criminal offense is relatively minor. “Crime involving moral turpitude” is a technical term that covers a broad spectrum of wrongdoing, ranging from violent crimes like murder and voluntary manslaughter, to fraud, larceny, and lesser offenses like shoplifting. The thing to remember: even crimes that seem insignificant can have enormous immigration consequences.

It remains to be seen whether Cabrera will face criminal charges, but he would be well advised to hire competent counsel to advise him on the complex interplay of immigration law and criminal law. It could be too late for Cabrera, but the rest of us can learn from his mistakes. For those seeking to visit the United States, or stay here permanently, the best policy is to avoid criminal trouble in the first place. A single strike against you may be all it takes to send you home.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.