Arizona strikes out on immigration policy

Story by Andy Hildebrand, Sports Editor

I like to think that as a society, we’ve come a long way. We’re better than we used to be. We’re more tolerant. We’re better educated.

Technology has made society a global community by bringing communication and culture to our fingertips.

On most days, I believe all of this to be true. Every once in a while though, I see something or I hear something that forces me to  recalibrate.

It forces me to take a step back and open my eyes wide with disbelief. I had one of those moments the other day while sitting at my desk, scanning the web and procrastinating another interview.

I’m a baseball guy. Because I’m a baseball guy, every year around this time I spend every extra moment I have scouring the web for spring training box scores and injury reports.

Teams spend the month of March in one of two warm weather destinations. They’re either prepping in the Grapefruit League in Florida, or the Cactus League in Arizona.

On this particular day, a simple search for Cactus League coverage led me to a feature written by Grantland.com’s Bryan Curtis that was much more than batting averages and bullpens.

It was a story about the most American of games, the infamous Sheriff Joe of Maricopa County, Arizona and SB1070.

Today, more than 25 percent of baseball players are Latino. That means every spring, when half of the major league clubs descend on the greater Phoenix area, a very large number of Latinos are suddenly transplanted into the area. However, the problem isn’t limited to baseball players.

SB1070 is an anti-illegal immigration act that among other things, allows law enforcement in Arizona to take into custody anyone they have “reasonable suspicion” is an illegal alien.

That means Latinos.

There’s a historical parallel that I immediately drew from this, but first, let’s examine this a little further.

If a Latino man has a tail light out and is pulled over and doesn’t have his green card or passport on his immediate person, he can legally be jailed and investigated. Not only is that completely ridiculous, but incredibly racist.

A big reason this story gets national press is because of the Major League Baseball players who need to double check they have their green card whenever they go down to the corner for a carton of milk.

In his article, Curtis made a good point. There aren’t any Canadian players carrying around their paperwork, and it’s because they don’t speak with a Spanish accent.

This is an inexcusable attitude. During World War II, the Nazis made the Jews wear special patches on their clothes so they could easily be identified. Arizona policy makers apparently do not need patches though. They simply think skin color is a pretty accurate indicator of person’s citizenship in this country.

The poster child for SB1070 is Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He’s world famous for his tough stance on law enforcement and strongly supports the “reasonable suspicion” approach. That’s not all though.

Arpaio reinstated chain gangs to the prison system. He constructed tent cities for inmates where temperatures in the summer were said to have reached 145 degrees.

Inmates shoes were melting because it was so hot. He forces every inmate to wear pink underwear as a tactic of humiliation. And oh yeah, he enlists posses to help deputies enforce immigration law.

When did this country become so against immigration? We were founded on it. It’s our identity. It’s one of our most defining and
redeeming qualities.Policy like that which is implemented in Arizona is unacceptable and isn’t part of the America that I’m proud to be a part of. It’s embarrassing.

I’m humiliated to know that racial profiling like this is going on in the country I call home. If I’m a Latino player in Major League Baseball, I’m boycotting games until policy like this is abolished, or Spring Training is moved from Arizona.

It’s been 66 years since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball. In 2013, minorities are still being treated like second class citizens in places around the country. We  may consider our society more civilized than it has ever been, but as long as encroachments like these on a person’s rights still exist, there will always be work to do.