Arizona strikes out

Sports community up in arms over Draconian immigration law

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By Adrian Castañeda

The backlash over Arizona's recently enacted Senate Bill 1070, which requires law enforcement to demand proof of citizenship if an individual is suspected of being in the U.S. illegally, is spreading faster than crude in the gulf, bringing America's favorite pastime to the political battlefront.

In nearly every city the Arizona Diamondbacks have played baseball in during the last month, they have been met by hundreds of activists protesting the law as unjust. Beginning May 29, the San Francisco Gigantes will host the unintended ambassadors of bigotry for a three-game series. San Franciscans are already gearing up for a strong show of force with a protest march that begins at Justin Herman Plaza at 4 p.m. and follows the waterfront to AT&T Park.

Although batter's box may be far removed from the governor's desk, as David Zirin of The Nation reported May 10 in "Diamondbacks Owner Ken Kendrick Continues to Support SB1070," Kendrick has stated his opposition to SB1070 but held a May 20 fundraiser for Republican Arizona State Sen. Jonathan Paton. The fundraiser for Paton, a supporter of the bill who is now running for Congress, was reportedly held inside the owner's box during the Diamondbacks 8-7 win over the Giants in Phoenix.

Even before The Nation broke the story of using the publicly-funded stadium as a hub for Republican fundraising, bloggers and commentators were railing against Kendrick for his half-hearted attempts to distance the team from the political uproar. "The fallout from recent state legislation has a direct impact on many of our players, employees, and fans in Arizona, not to mention our local businesses, many of which are corporate partners of ours," says a press release on the team's Web site. Many take the statement as a sign that the demonstrations are working.

Articles on Kendrick's political activities spurred the nationwide protests, but every city's protest seems to be locally and spontaneously organized. Brian Cruz, part of the May 1st Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights, said that although the May 29 event may not have much economic impact on the Diamondbacks, it is a political statement: "We are boycotting the game because we need to do what we can to stop the state from implementing this law."

Cruz hopes the protests draw national attention to the issue and force President Obama to take action. Cruz advocates for immigration reform and amnesty for those in the country without papers. "We believe in a world without borders," Cruz told us. Cruz believes that U.S. foreign and economic policies are to blame for immigrants leaving their home countries, and that America's rich people are merely using undocumented people as scapegoats. "We see it as a racist attack against immigrants that demonizes those who come to this country to work," Cruz says of SB 1070.

Jevon Cochran, a student at Oakland's Laney College, has been organizing along with others to boycott the law he says is racist against all people of color, not just Hispanics. Cochran says the protest is crucial in overturning Arizona's law and preventing similar laws from spreading to other states. College campuses have been huge sources of support for immigrants' rights with a wide variety of student groups coming out against the law. Most recently, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the largest black fraternity in the U.S., cancelled its 40,000-member convention in Phoenix. The move came at great personal cost to the group but represents an even greater loss in revenue for Arizona businesses. "We want to strangle Arizona financially," Cochran said.

In addition to the city's resolution to boycott Arizona, Sup. Chris Daly called on the city and fans to protest at the Giants games against the Diamondbacks, home and away, and asked the Giants to wear their Gigantes jerseys in solidarity with the protestors.