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Immigration of Athletes

As the government continues to crack down on immigration, the economic effects are often debated. But there is another area that is often ignored – the sports world. Some of the U.S.’s most famous athletes arrived here as immigrants: Sammy Sosa, Yao Ming, Patrick Ewing, and Wayne Gretzky to name a few.

As fewer work visas are handed out, coming to America to play professional sports is becoming more difficult. In 2004, only 66,000 total were issued and professional sports didn’t receive any special treatment, thus making it difficult to get some players here. Professional sports is a multi-billion dollar industry, bringing in significant revenue for the U.S., so it is important to look at the history of sports and immigration to understand how immigration laws will affect the future. According to Former MLB, Hall of Famer, left-handed pitcher, Sudden Sam McDowell, “Major League Baseball doesn’t get any breaks. They go along with the law. Some new ball players may report to spring training late, or not at all, because their paperwork may have been filled out incorrectly.”

McDowell added, cofounder of K-Towne Sports Academy in Montverde, “Major League sports has been recruiting players since the 1930’s, “We do have a special consulate in New York, we can make inquiries to with questions, but when recruiting we go through the same challenges as everyone else. When visiting other countries, we start the paperwork the year before they (the ball players) come to the states.

An there are different types of work visas with different time frames for each person.” “The boxers Benny Leonard, Kid Kaplan, Barney Ross, Lew Tendler, Benny Bass and many others in the 20’s and 30’s all left their mark on the sport – and many are remembered to this day,” remarks Arnold Holtzman, author. “But with the successful integration of these immigrants into American life, the Jewish, Irish and Italian boxers were replaced by African-Americans. These champions in turn gave way to the new immigrants from Puerto Rico.

Then came the turn of the Russians, and boxers from the Ukraine and other Eastern bloc countries. Now the Mexicans are rising to the top in many divisions. This remains, for many an immigrant, the swiftest way to secure a place for himself, or herself, and gain respectability in America – and realize America’s exceptional promise as the land of opportunity wherever genuine talent merits such opportunity.”



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