Haitians in the Dominican Republic are not making it to U.S. Major League Baseball nearly as often as they should, partly due to racism in the Caribbean nation and partly to restrictive U.S. policy, according to ESPN.
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The sports magazine published an article on Tuesday based on multiple interviews with young Haitians, many of whom had million-dollar contracts waiting for them in the U.S. which they could not sign because of a lack of official identification papers.
Forgery of identification is common in baseball, where age is an important consideration for scouts, but for many Haitians in the Dominican Republic, it's a necessity. MLB teams cannot file the proper paperwork to bring a Haitian to the U.S. if they do not have a valid birth certificate, which migrants often lack. Of the few Haitians that make it, many also change their names to avoid racism.
Haitians, the article points out, are not known to be baseball talents but one million live in the neighboring Dominican Republic, where one of the main exports is rising baseball stars. There, Haitians face deadly discrimination, including mass deportation and the stripping of their citizenship. In some cases, Haitians are denied access to their own identification papers by openly racist clerks.
The obstacles, though, start even before signing MLB contracts.
"Long before you get to Major League Baseball, there's a selection process that discriminates against Haitians," a former MLB worker in the Dominican, Sandy Alderson, told ESPN. Youth teams that funnel players north often don't accept Haitians, and Dominican "buscons" who sponsor young talent rarely pick up Haitians to avoid paperwork issues.
The U.S. has also made entry more difficult, starting with tougher visa requirements after the Sept. 11 attacks continuing into 2010 when MLB cracked down on identity fraud with lengthy investigations and DNA tests.
"I wouldn't say that intended consequences were to leave a specific group of people outside the benefits of that process," said Alderson. "But in essence, that's what has happened."