A story recently came out about Los Angeles Dodger star Yasiel Puig, detailing his defection from Cuba and immigration to the United States. The account details how Puig escaped Cuba with the help of Los Zetas, one of the most well-known narco-trafficking organized crime groups in the world, how he was held captive in a shady hotel in Mexico and threatened with dismemberment by machete by the Zetas while the group negotiated a ransom with a corrupt businessman in the U.S. The U.S. businessman purportedly arranged Puig’s defection with the help of the Zetas in exchange for twenty percent of all of Puig’s future earnings.
A couple of things about the story stood out to me. First, the story of Puig is not news in the sense that this is typical of many people who immigrate to the U.S. from different countries every year. Nearly everyone who tries to immigrate to the U.S. without authorization employs what are commonly known as “coyotes,” smugglers connected to organized crime groups (like the Zetas) who prey on people who are desperate to improve the lives of themselves and their families by risking everything to come to the U.S. What happened to Yasiel Puig happens to many people every day, people are kidnapped, raped, tortured, killed or held for ransom. This story is garnering so much attention is because it is about a person with exceptional baseball skills, but I sincerely hope that people realize this is not unique situation.
Second, I think the Puig story illustrates just how desperate people are to come to the U.S. When you stop and think about it, how bad must it be in immigrants’ home countries that they are willing to risk life and limb to leave and seek even a sliver of opportunity? Contrary to anti-immigrant belief, people generally do not come to the U.S. just to piss the anti-immigrant off personally. People immigrate to the U.S. for many reasons: escape communism; avoid starvation; avoid torture and persecution; and to try and give their families a future. If nothing else, I hope the Puig story helps everyone to look on immigration with an empathetic eye, understanding the truly human elements that spark people to seek better lives.