Back in April, the state of Arizona -- home to the Diamondbacks and the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game -- passed controversial new immigration legislation to help identify illegal immigrants in the state. The law was set to go into effect on July 29th, though a federal judge blocked some of the most problematic parts of the law.
The Washington Nationals are the first team to visit Arizona since the law went into effect last week without its most controversial provisions.
“We’re all glad that it has been stopped and it’s going to be looked at with a microscope,” said Nationals reliever Miguel Batista. “Hopefully they can find a resolution for it because it’s going to hurt more than help.”
Batista, a veteran player and native of the Dominican Republic, is the Nationals’ representative to the MLB Players Association and has been speaking publicly about the law and advising his teammates on the ongoing situation.
“That’s what this country is all about. People are going to fight for their rights,” said Batista. “They have the right to try to solve immigration problems. But people believe there are ways to solve that problem without violating constitutional rights.”
To date, a number of Major League players and managers have spoken out about the law including Jose Bautista, Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, Joakim Soria, Scott Hairston, Ozzie Guillen and Edwin Rodriguez.
“The biggest mistake of this is that nobody specified who could be stopped by the police and asked for their papers,” Batista said. “What are the requirements or the issues that would give a police officer the right to ask somebody for their papers?”
“Is it because they look Spanish or they look like they aren’t American? Because they have an accent or they don’t speak English? What are the issues that would make a person fall into that group? Guys cannot just walk down the street, not look Caucasian, and be pulled over.”
That concern has been at the heart of the debate over the new law since its passage.
Protesters have called on Major League Baseball to move the 2011 All-Star Game out of Arizona out of respect to the 30% of Latino players that comprise MLB rosters.
In 1993, the NFL pulled the Super Bowl out of Arizona because they refused to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a holiday thus establishing a precedent for removing a sporting event from a state due to political pressure.
Batista explained that the All-Star Game is quite different from players traveling to Arizona during a regular season game. It’s fairly easy to refuse to participate in the All-Star Game. But if a player refuses to play in Arizona during the regular season, he’d violate his contract.
For now, that won’t be the problem. With key provisions blocked, the Nationals travel to Phoenix without worry, though the legal battles surrounding the legislation continue.