Family ready to leave Florida

Updated: June 24, 2004, 4:11 PM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- The family of New York Yankees pitcher Jose Contreras resolved a paperwork issue Wednesday and was preparing to leave South Florida.

Jose Contreras
The Contrerases reunite Tuesday in Miami.

Contreras' wife, Miriam Murillo, and the couple's two daughters, Naylan, 11, and Naylenis, 3, defected to the United States from Cuba on Monday. The group was given immigration forms that should expire June 22, 2005, but a clerical error listed the expiration date as June 22, 2004, said the family's lawyer, Jaime Torres.

The matter was cleared up and new documents were issued late Wednesday afternoon, Torres said.

"All the paperwork is done," said Torres, also Contreras' agent. "They're OK, they're excited and they're trying to get to New York as soon as possible."

The family also had to obtain photo identifications that would allow them to, among other things, meet federal requirements for boarding commercial airline flights.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Ana Santiago declined specific comment on the paperwork matter Wednesday. ICE is the federal bureau that processed the family's paperwork Tuesday.

Contreras, who is not scheduled to pitch again until Saturday at Yankee Stadium against the New York Mets, spent much of Wednesday at the Miami Beach hotel where his family stayed Tuesday night. Torres spent much of the day shuttling his wife and daughters to immigration offices.

"After I explained to them that everything was finalized and they were here legally, everyone was happy," Torres said.

Travel plans were not finalized, Torres said, but he expected the family to reach New York no later than Thursday.

Contreras' family was among a group of 21 Cubans that left Cuba on a 31-foot boat Sunday evening, U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Robert Montemayor said.

The group was captured by U.S. Border Patrol agents on Big Pine Key, about 108 miles southwest of Miami, at 5:15 a.m. Monday, Montemayor said, then transferred into ICE custody early Tuesday morning. Cubans who reach U.S. shores are generally permitted to stay, while those caught at sea usually are taken back.

The family was released into Torres' custody Tuesday evening. Contreras flew to Miami on a commercial flight from Baltimore and was reunited with his family about four hours after their release.

Contreras, once touted as Cuba's top baseball star, defected in October 2002. After he established residency in Nicaragua and became a free agent, the Yankees signed him to a $32 million, four-year contract. The Cuban government denied his family permission to leave the island nation.

In Cuba, the government-controlled news media didn't carry any news of the defection.

Separation from his family was often cited as a possible reason for Contreras' bouts of inconsistency in New York. He is 4-3 with a 6.18 ERA in 11 starts this season.

"Hopefully, this will relax his mind a little bit," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said Wednesday before New York's game in Baltimore, a 13-2 Orioles victory. "He didn't seem like he was depressed, but I'm sure he was affected by it. No one can really relate to his situation unless you've been in it."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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