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Wednesday, January 20, 2016
More Foreign Athletes Getting in Possible Immigration Trouble

In 2015, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov made news by being forced to leave the United States when he was convicted a crime of domestic violence and was subsequently placed in removal proceedings (more commonly known as deportation proceedings).  It seems that the far reaching consequences of that case did not reach Colorado Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes, however, who was arrested in October 2015 in Hawaii for misdemeanor "Abuse of family or household members".

Mr. Reyes is now scheduled for trial on this case this April.  If he either takes a plea deal prior to then or is convicted, it is certain that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will look into the case, as Mr. Reyes was born in the Dominican Republic and presumably entered the United States with either an athlete's visa or as a legal permanent resident.

If an individual is lawfully present in the United States but not a United States Citizen, there are a number of reasons he could be removed by ICE.  The main ones that would affect Jose Reyes are that an individual can be removed if convicted of an aggravated felony, a crime involving moral turpitude that carries a sentence of a year or more, or a crime involving domestic violence.

A review of the criminal statute under which he is charged shows that it is very unlikely that this would be considered an aggravated felony.   Further, the charge is a misdemeanor, which means that there cannot be a sentence of a year or more.  This leaves the potential for removal due to having committed a crime involving domestic violence.

As a comparison to Slava Voynov's removal for having committed a crime involving domestic violence, Mr. Reyes is in a better position than Mr.Voynov was.  Unlike Slava Voynov's case from last year, Mr. Reyes' charge is not automatically a domestic violence crime under immigration laws because there are ways to be convicted of the charge of "abuse of family or household members" that do not involve violence.  For instance, one could be convicted of that crime by refusing compliance with an order of a police officer investigating possible domestic violence, even if no violence ever occurred.

This is not to say that he will have no problems with the immigration service, however.  If the criminal complaint states that he physically assaulted a family member, or if in a plea deal he admits to physically assaulting a family member, those documents could potentially be used against him in a removal hearing.
To further complicate the matter, although the Colorado Rockies do not play the Toronto Blue Jays this year, a conviction for a crime involving domestic violence could also be used to deny Mr. Reyes admission into Canada for any games there in the future.
Luckily, there are ways to structure a potential plea in this case to avoid immigration consequences if the district attorney is willing to work with defense counsel, but only time will tell if Jose Reyes will end up in ICE custody.


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