Immigration Law

Does L.A. Dodgers Baseball Star Jose Peralta Need A Work Visa to Sign Autographs?

"The immigration nightmare that Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Joel Peralta recently endured is a strong example of why major league ballplayers always should carry their own baseball cards for identification.

Peralta and his wife were stopped at the Miami International Airport for six hours this past Friday night because the ICE official handling their entry from the Dominican Republic into the United States found Peralta's visa to be insufficient for "signing autographs" at the Dodgers fan fest. For activities like that, Peralta needed a work visa, instead of the 10-year visitor's visa he carried. If it sounds like a distinction without a difference, you're not alone, but when the season comes around, players residing in the Dominican Republic and elsewhere do need work visas. But this is a fan fest.

Peralta's agent, Mark Gilling, told J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles Daily News that, as a result of the delay, Peralta was unable to attend.  They stayed in a cell at the airport for six hours, Gilling said, until "another guy eventually came over and recognized him and said, 'You can let him through.' "  By then, it was 1 o'clock in the morning. The Peraltas were unable to get a flight to Los Angeles in time for FanFest, so they caught a flight home instead.  Gilling said that Peralta is getting his work visa today in the Dominican and won't miss the start of spring training.

So frustrating. If only Peralta had brought his own baseball card with him, the issue might have been settled much more quickly. Check out his 2014 Topps update:

This should be as good as any passport.That's an official MLB transaction graphic on that card. (USATSI)

"Oh, you mean THAT Joel Peralta," the ICE clerk might have exclaimed six hours sooner.

But therein lies the part of the story that makes no sense. Peralta was detained for having the wrong visa because "signing autographs" apparently can be defined as "work." OK. So, the first official who denied him entry didn't seem to have trouble believing Peralta's story about being a baseball player visiting the U.S. It was about having the proper paperwork.

And then a second official comes along, hours later, and says, "Yeah, he's who he says he is," and frees Peralta to enter with the same visa as before. The immigration system is messed up, even if you're just visiting. It's not like you can blame Peralta entirely. After all, ICE let him into the country with the so-called "wrong visa" anyway. It's a good thing he didn't declare any pine tar at customs, though." - David Brown, CBS Sports, Feb. 4, 2015.