The Texas Rangers baseball team are celebrating finally getting two new pitchers from the Dominican Republic just in time for spring training. The team hired Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando five years ago, but they were banned from traveling to the U.S. at the time because they had been convicted of being involved in a human trafficking ring in the DR.
But the two new pitchers have served their time and even performed voluntary community service. The ban has been lifted, and they are now eligible to play baseball in the U.S. The big question is, will their past involvement with human trafficking haunt them in their new lives in Texas?
When Beltre and Ogando were Major League Baseball hopefuls, they and about 30 other baseball players got an offer that sounded too good to refuse. They would pretend to marry women in order to get them into the U.S. with the players. Once in America, the men and their fake wives would part ways, the women most likely trafficked into prostitution. In exchange for what was essentially filling out falsified paperwork, they'd each receive $3000. Beltre and Ogando both took the deal. But the U.S. State Department uncovered the scheme before any women could be trafficked to the U.S. All the baseball players involved were banned from getting visas to the U.S. -- a ban that ended up stretching over five years.
Beltre and Ogando, according to many who have met them, are both deeply sorry for their role in the scheme. During their wait to be allowed to join the Texas Rangers, the men worked with a number of NGOs in the DR to raise awareness about the dangers of human trafficking. They've also worked with organizations to create training programs for Dominicans, teaching them how not to be caught up in visa forgeries, smuggling, and trafficking. Officials saw the anti-trafficking work the players were doing, coupled with the fact that they were not the masterminds of the scheme, and relaxed the ban to get them visas.
This story is one that has a pretty happy ending. Thanks to the investigative work from the State Department, no women were trafficked in this scheme. Beltre and Ogando learned some valuable lessons and were able to pass them along to other Dominicans who may find themselves in a similar situation. The Texas Rangers get two talented young pitchers, and Beltre and Ogando get a second chance that they're incredibly grateful for.
What do you think about this case? Did the punishment fit the crime? Are Beltre and Ogando just two guys who made some mistakes and deserve a second chance to live their dream? Or should their involvement in human trafficking have kept them out of Major League Baseball forever?