Why ESPN's Rick Sutcliffe Is Wrong About Deporting Melky Cabrera

Thumbnail image for Melky Cabrera baseball card.jpg
Aaaaand it's becoming political.
On Monday, ESPN baseball analyst Rick Sutcliffe was on ESPN radio and said this about Melky Cabrera:
You know, it makes you mad. First of all, this guy is over here in the United States on a working visa. He broke the law. What's he doing still here? I mean, forget the 50-game suspension from baseball and whether he can come back if they make the [playoffs] or not. Why's he still here? That visa should be taken away, and he should not be allowed to play over here again, or work over here again, in my opinion.

Rick Sutcliffe appears to have a poor understanding of both immigration law and the American judicial process.

So let's answer Rick's question: What's Melky Cabrera still doing here?

First of all, Cabrera has not been charged with any crime. This is the fundamental reason he is not facing deportation. In America we don't deport people who are legally here when they haven't been charged with any crime. 

Cabrera is in America on a working visa -- either a P-1 (for "internationally recognized athletes") or an O-1 (for "individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement"). As long as he is employed by a baseball team (even under suspension), or actively seeking employment with a baseball team, he remains eligible.

A judge can revoke this visa if a person commits a crime that is an "aggravated felony" or constitutes "moral turpitude." Classifying personal steroid use in either of these categories, immigration attorney Randall Caudle explains, would be "a stretch."

It's likely moot anyway. A prosecutor will rarely persue a misdemeanor drug possession charge in a case where no drugs were actually tagged up and shelved in an evidence room. (Steroids are a Schedule III drug, on the same level as LSD and Vicodin.) Cabrera was not caught receiving synthetic testosterone in the mail. Authorities didn't search his house and confiscate a bundle of vials. What happened was that he failed a drug test ordered by his employer and he admitted to making a "mistake."

"It would never be that an admission alone will lead to a prosecution," says Wes Porter, a professor at Golden Gate University's law school. "Especially one that might involve deportation."

Prosecutors are going after dealers. When the Feds busted BALCO, none of the players implicated were charged. They were, however, subpoenaed. USA Today reported earlier this week that MLB and the Department of Justice are investigating where the Melk Man got his product. That's where he can really find trouble. After all, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens didn't get tangled in their respective legal messes for taking PEDs, but for allegedly lying about them under oath.

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Also, the substance that he tested positive for is not illegal. Testosterone is a commonly prescribed hormone that is also commonly abused by athletes. He broke MLB policy, not United States law.


@TowerGreg Not too tough right now. Still looking for the line that says he is actually being deported. #balladofmelky

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