Welcome to the March 2017 edition of our Passport News Roundup! We have some wild stories to cover this month. We’ll look at everything from passport lines to passport seizures… with a passport snack in between! This month’s passport news features baseball stars, rappers, and the President of the United States.
Come with us as we review the hottest passport news stories from all across the United States and beyond.
Watch Me (Stand in Line for a Passport)
Back in November, we wrote an article asking if Trump’s election would cause a passport rush. Less than four months later, it looks like we have a clear answer, and that answer is yes! Media outlets around the country are reporting on crowds of people jamming passport acceptance facilities seeking to get US passports.
The State Department had already expected a higher than normal number of passport applications in 2017, but last month’s well-publicized immigration raids have prompted a new surge of applications.
In Travis County, Texas, the local Passport Acceptance Facility says that applicants are starting to line up at 5 A.M. every morning, three hours before the facility opens at 8 o’clock. Many of the people in line are families of undocumented parents seeking to get passports for their US-born children. A report from CBS News in Sacramento, California featured a mother who expressed the fears of many immigrant parents. She was seeking a US passport for her 11 year old son, not just to allow him to stay in the US, but to give him the freedom to travel if she is deported. More than anything, she feared being separated from her son. If he does not have a valid passport, he would not be able to travel with her back to her home country if she is deported.
It’s not just US passports that are being sought – consulates of countries like Mexico and El Salvador report that they also are seeing an increase in passport applications. Families of undocumented immigrants are seeking passports from their native countries to make sure they can all travel together if one member is deported.
Watch Me (Eat My Passport)
This is one of the wildest passport news stories we’ve heard in a while! Baseball star Jose Abreu, first baseman for the White Sox, testified in federal court last week that he ate his passport.
That’s right: he ate his passport, while in flight to the United States.
Jose is not on trial for his passport-munching. Instead, he is a witness in the trial of baseball agent Bartolo Hernandez and trainer Julio Estrada. The two men are on trial in federal court in Miami, charged with participating in smuggling Cuban baseball players to the United States.
According to the story presented in court, Jose was making roughly $20 a month as a professional baseball player in his native Cuba. In 2013, with the help of baseball smugglers, he and his family traveled by boat to Haiti, and then to the Dominican Republic. There, he was scouted by US agents and offered a multi-year contract with the White Sox worth $68 million. The smugglers provided him with a fake Haitian passport that he used to board a flight to Miami.
While on board his flight, he testified, his top priority was to destroy the fake passport. He went to the restroom, ripped out the information pages of the passport, and threw the rest of the passport in the trash. He then returned to his seat, ordered a beer — a Heineken! — and used it to wash down small bites of the passport pages.
So how was Jose Abreu able to enter the US without a passport? He was allowed to enter as a refugee from Cuba under the “wet foot, dry foot” policy. This policy allowed any Cuban who made it to the United States the right to enter and start working towards US citizenship. After decades of allowing Cuban refugees special status, President Obama abruptly cancelled the policy in January 2017.
Watch Me (Get My Passport Seized)
Remember the stories from last summer, about members of the US Olympic Swimming Team having their passports seized in Brazil? Another high-profile American has now had his passport seized by a foreign government.
The rapper Silento, best known for his mega-hit “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)”, is currently stuck in the United Arab Emirates. On February 20, he was ordered by a UAE civil court to surrender his passport due to a contract dispute with an Emirati concert promoter. The promoter alleges that Silento didn’t appear for two scheduled concerts, one in Abu Dhabi and the other in the city of Al Ain. He’s seeking damages of roughly $81,000 from Silento, to cover the expenses from the abruptly cancelled concerts.
According to news reports, Silento only learned of his travel ban last week, and it’s unclear if he’s actually turned over his passport or not. He has continued to perform shows in UAE, while his local lawyers attempt to clear up the situation.