What the Red Sox Can Teach Congress About Immigration Reform

The case for bringing the world's best talent here.

One of the things I have found reassuringly familiar as I move back to New England after an absence of nearly 20 years is the Red Sox baseball team, still battling for the top of the American League’s East division.

It’s just the players who are different.

The hottest Boston hitter at the moment has been Jose Iglesias, a 23-year-old infielder whose batting average, at this writing, stands at .409. He was born in Cuba and defected while visiting Canada as a member of the Cuban junior national team.

The team’s closing relief pitcher is Koji Uehara, who had three saves on three straight nights last week and is being described as “the new hero of Boston.” He was born in Japan and communicates through a translator.

And its pillar is David Ortiz, who was with the Red Sox through its Word Series wins in both 2004 and 2007 and who has, at this writing, 417 career home runs. He was born in the Dominican Republic.

In Red Sox Nation, as the area from Maine to Connecticut and beyond where the team’s fans live is known, one doesn’t hear a lot of whining or grumbling — one doesn’t hear any whining or grumbling at all, really — about how the Cuban-born Iglesias, the Japan-born Uehara, or the Dominican Republic-born Ortiz are depriving worthy and unemployed American-born baseball players of a livelihood. Instead, fans are glad the Red Sox are winning, and excited to see baseball played at a level of world-class excellence.

Perhaps this year, as in too many previous years, the Red Sox will collapse after the All-Star break, or in September. But for those following the congressional debate about immigration reform, the Red Sox recent run of success could not be better timed. What better example is there of the way that immigration strengthens America by bringing the world’s best talent here? The Red Sox roster is as American as motherhood, apple pie, baseball, or immigration itself. And it was a Massachusetts senator, John Kennedy, after all, who once wrote a book about America titled A Nation of Immigrants.

Sure, there will be those who will argue that three foreign-born Red Sox stars are hardly sufficient to settle the immigration policy debate. The issue, they will say, are hordes of unskilled and illegal Mexicans, or terror-bent Islamists, not legal-immigrant athletes with multi-million-dollar contracts. Or they will argue that the Red Sox players arrived under the current law, so there is no need to revise that law. Or they will say that even if one supports immigration reform, the bill approved last week by the Senate — a mere summary of it by one immigration lawyer runs to 119 pages — is an overly complex monstrosity designed to provide lots of work for immigration lawyers and Homeland Security bureaucrats, but little relief to either employers or individual immigrants.

One can acknowledge these points without conceding the central fact of the immigration debate, which is that immigration makes America better, just like it has made the Red Sox better.

If one looks at the history of America’s great cities, one finds immigrant presences far greater than those of today. New York from 1850 to 1920 went not a decennial census with a foreign-born population of less than 35 percent. San Francisco from 1860 to 1910 had a foreign-born population at each census of 34 percent or higher. From 1850 to 1920, Boston had a foreign-born population at each census of 31 percent or higher. The decline of these cities in the 1970s came with the decline in immigrants — the 1970 census found the foreign born population in Boston at 13.1 percent, in New York at 18.2 percent, and in San Francisco at 21.6 percent, all levels below the years when those cities were growing and flourishing.

Each wave of immigrants in the past was met with the same claims of inferiority that the Hispanics are being met with now. The German Jewish immigrants worried that the Eastern European Jewish immigrants were too clannish and wouldn’t integrate. The Northern European immigrants looked down at the Southern European immigrants, and the Southern European immigrants looked down at the Chinese. Each wave worried that the next wave wouldn’t learn English fast enough.

Senator Rubio, who voted for the Senate bill he helped to craft, said in explaining it, “sometimes, we focus so much on how immigrants could change America, that we forget that America changes immigrants even more.”

So as the Mayflower descendants and offspring of Irish immigrants fill Fenway Park to cheer on Iglesias, Uehara, and Ortiz, we can look forward to a day when the children and grandchildren of Iglesias, Uehara, and Ortiz fill the same ballpark to cheer on immigrant players from some other land. Or perhaps to a day when the Mexican Americans themselves start worrying that the latest wave of arrivals — from Africa, or from who knows where — won’t measure up to standards. It’s the American way.

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  • Ted S.||

    Can the White Sox teach us anything about Chicago deep-dish pizza?

  • Restoras||

    Well I'm sure Hawk will just say it's the best and everything else sucks.

  • ||

    It is helpful when I can look at a byline and say "Yeah, I can skip that article".

  • Almanian!||

    -1 less thing to read

  • mtrueman||

    I often find it useful to skip down to the last sentence or so. Here it is:

    "It’s the American way."

    This shows how muddle headed the author is about his nation and his neighbours. Mexicans in their millions consider themselves to be Americans. It's not predicated on their love of baseball or their ability to speak English. They are American by birth, and have their own views on what it means to be American. It doesn't necessarily include a fortified border fence, thousands of miles long, running through the middle of their lands.

  • <i>i</i>||

    So Mexicans are American in the same way that Palestinians are Israelis. Except that the Palestinians actually have a legitimate claim to the land. Less than ten percent of current Mexicans can claim any ancestor that goes back to Spanish colonial times.

  • mtrueman||

    "So Mexicans are American in the same way that Palestinians are Israelis"

    That's not what I'm saying. Mexicans consider themselves to be Americans. When I say American, I don't mean citizens of the USA. Mexicans have a more expansive view of the meaning of the word, encompassing the whole of the new world, which includes Mexico, USA and other countries. Mexicans don't believe it is necessary to speak English in order to be considered a proper American, as I mentioned.

    "Less than ten percent of current Mexicans can claim any ancestor that goes back to Spanish colonial times."

    Not sure what this has to do with the question, or Palestine or Israel for that matter.

  • XM||

    The better title for this article is "What baseball can teach us about America". Latin players were contributing the their team's success for decades. Baseball probably benefited from steroid enhanced super humans blasting homeruns than true international flair.

    In any case, what's happening in Boston is more of a case for a guest worker program, and not amnesty and open borders. The players that come from abroad can probably rely on their agents or the teams involved to take care of the visa problem.

    If you want top tier Japanese players (like Yu Darvish), then the teams have to outbid each other by spending millions that they can't get back, even if the player is a bust.

  • Homple||

    Yeah, well, it's pretty to think so. Immigration "reform" has never been nor ever will be about bringing in top performers or the best and brightest from anywhere. DREAM (as they say) on.

  • Acosmist||

    As Richwine showed, we're not getting the best talent.

  • Homple||

    Richwine be raacis.

  • <i>i</i>||

    Did you hear about the Mexican physicist who revolutionized our knowledge of quanta? Did you hear about the Mexican businessman who built a billion dollar industry? Did you hear about the Mexican scientist who cured that major disease?

    Neither did I. But they can hit a ball.

  • ||

    Did you hear about the Mexican businessman who built a billion dollar industry?

    Probably not the best example you could have used.

    Although the article is painfully stupid for the reasons it acknowledges an an attempt to disarm them. Baseball teams apply a level of selectivity that, were it applied to immigration, would result in America's annual immigration quota being about 50.

  • <i>i</i>||

    Carlos Slim is Lebanese. And besides, he only got so wealthy off of a government-backed monopoly.

  • ||

    I generally consider a person born in Mexico, raised in Mexico, educated in Mexico, operating major businesses in Mexico to be a "Mexican", in the same way a person similarly situated in America would be considered an "American" businessman, race-obsession notwithstanding.

    The example still stands. The guy built a billion dollar industry.

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  • PTripp||

    The only immigration 'reform' we need is to enforce current law.

    If you can carry The Constitution and Bill of rights in any pocket, and read them in an hour or less, why does a ~1200 page 'immigration reform bill' have to be hauled around in a mini-van and can't be understood even by many lawyers?

    Because it's full of deceptions, loopholes, and 'pork' like Harry Reid's 'Casino Kickback'.

    Janet Napolitano, who is on record opposing the border fence, can stop it from being completed if she wants to. It's supposed to be completed now by 2006 law. She can waive almost any restrictions at will simply by meeting with the DOJ, State Dept, and I think Dept of the Interior. She can start issuing green cards six months after the bill is signed and even 'waive' restrictions on criminal convictions as well as fines and penalties. Congress has ZERO oversight.

    Sure border security and e-Verify are in the bill, but so are exemptions and waivers that make them a waste of paper and ink. Saying something MAY be implemented and leaving it up to the discretion of political appointees with no Congressional oversight is not the way to go.

  • PTripp||

    The House is right to dismiss the Senate bill and start from scratch. Hopefully they won't cave like Rubio and will pass something with real teeth and no pork.

    America doesn't need another 'bill too large to read' that 'has to be passed to find out what's in it.' That isn't working out so well with the PP&ACA; (Obamacare) which is only now starting up, and they're still writing the regulations. Three years later and we still don't know what's in it!!!

    Legal immigration is fine. Decriminalizing illegal immigration is not.

    I'm sick of all the BS about how Republicans need to pass it or lose Hispanic votes. When legal immigrants were polled, they are against amnesty. They did it right and waited, 'crossing their t's and dotting their i's.' They don't want to see illegals rewarded and given special treatment. Neither do the majority of Americans.

    Rubio and co. talk up what the bill is supposed to do, and that would for the most part be fine, but the fact is all that can be bypassed with no Congressional oversight. They need to be honest with America.

    Don't even get me started on the pork....

  • sweettea71||

    I always love a good baseball story. I'm guessing this one could be found in the fiction section. These baseball teams are in the business of putting a winning product on the field. Our government is in the business of creating dependents. I'm all for letting those that are here stay. I'm for granting those brought here as children citizenship. What I'm against is giving citizenship to someone who broke the law to come here and endless access to our welfare state.

  • Almanian!||

    1) What the Red Sox Can Teach Congress About Immigration Reform - not much

    2) I thought sure Welch was the author.

    3) It took me a couple paragraphs to realize the comments would provide more information and stimulation.

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  • Paul Schlacter||

    Right-handed pitcher Austin Maddox signed with Red Sox! I think he is best fit for their team and hope he'll become one of the assets of the team! I have purchased Boston Red Sox tickets for the game next week from GoodSeatTickets.com to watch him play!

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  • CLamb||

    Unfortunately, the talents encouraged by the current immigration bill is being able to evade the law and having an easy time getting into the USA. It would be nice if we did have immigration reform but this bill isn't about that. It just legalizes the current residents and punishes the honest and poor.

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