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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Potential Impact of Arizona SB 1070 on Professional Baseball Players

The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (Arizona SB 1070) was signed into law in Arizona by governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010. SB 1070 makes it a misdemeanor crime for an alien (note – not “illegal alien”) to be in the state of Arizona without possession of proper immigration documents.

The most frightening aspect of this law is that it obligates law enforcement officials to make an attempt to determine a person’s immigration status if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is an illegal alien during a police stop for any other offense or suspected offense. Law enforcement may arrest a person if there is probable cause that the person is an unlawful alien. A legal alien, who doesn’t have a passport and visa in his possession during a law enforcement encounter can be arrested. The “I’m sorry, but I left my passport and visa at home” defense will not prevent one from being detained.

This law, which is scheduled to go into effect on July 28, 2010, can, and most likely will, have a disproportionate impact on Latin baseball players. The Arizona Rookie League will begin in a matter of months. Approximately 150 Latin players will arrive in the greater Phoenix area to participate in the league. These Latin players are young, usually teenagers, with limited command of the English language. Under SB 1070’s nebulous “reasonable suspicion” standard, these young Latin players are prime targets for this “legalized racial profiling”. Under almost any interpretation of SB 1070’s reasonable suspicion standard, these players can be asked to produce their passports and visas if there is a suspicion regarding his immigration status because of their skin color and/or English language command. If they don’t have their passports, even though here legally, they can be incarcerated.

SB 1070 doesn’t only affect legal aliens, it can affect U.S. citizens. Under SB 1070, if an American born Caucasian player, who speaks perfect English, is asked to produce his driver’s license or other identification, and he does not have it, is he incarcerated? The answer is no. If an American born player of Hispanic decent, who speaks perfect English, is asked to produce the same identification, and does not have it, is he incarcerated? The answer is he could be under SB 1070’s reasonable suspicion standard. This is a clear equal protection violation.

I am of the opinion that SB 1070 will not withstand constitutional challenge. There have already been two lawsuits filed seeking to have the bill declared unconstitutional. In the unlikely event that legal intervention is unsuccessful, a referendum to overturn the law (in a state where the population is 30% Hispanic) is expected to be on the ballot no later than 2012. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have both denounced the bill and questioned its constitutionality. Given that the federal government has the primary responsibility to deal with immigration matters, federal intervention is likely.

The Major League Baseball Players Association and the National Basketball Association Players Association have voiced their opposition to SB 1070, and should be lauded for wading into the political arena on such an important issue. The Phoenix Suns are wearing “Los Suns” jerseys in their playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs tonight in protest of the law. Both the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks, as organizations, have issued statements in opposition to SB 1070. It will be interesting to see what position Major League Baseball takes, if any, as they have not commented publically on the issue as of this date. MLB’s position will be of some import, as many opponents of the law have called upon MLB to move the 2011 All-Star game, currently scheduled for Phoenix. As an aside, the National Football League pulled the 1993 Super Bowl from Phoenix as a result of Arizona’s failure to recognize Martin Luther King Day as an official state holiday. Tempe was selected as the host of the 1996 Super Bowl, only after Arizona finally recognized MLK Day as an official state holiday.

As Billy Hunter, the NBAPA executive director said:

“Any attempt to encourage, tolerate or legalize racial profiling is offensive and incompatible with basic notions of fairness and equal protection. A law that unfairly targets one group is ultimately a threat to all.”




    § 1325. Improper entry by alien

    TITLE 8 > CHAPTER 12 > SUBCHAPTER II > Part VIII > § 1324a

    § 1324a. Unlawful employment of aliens



    We should treat immigrants like Mexico does:

    At present, Article 67 of Mexico's Population Law says, "Authorities, whether federal, state or municipal ... are required to demand that foreigners prove their legal presence in the country, before attending to any issues."

    That would simplify things.

  2. RumpledOne: You ought to read 8 USC 1325 - it doesn't really say what you think it says. Under Arizona SB 1070, one can be detained even if they are not in violation of 8 USC 1325. But thanks for the comment.

  3. Under what section in SB 1070 ( does it authorize detainment? According to 11-1051 they can only do that when they have "received verification" that the person is an alien. Is there another section which deals with detainment during "stops"?

    In addition, Section F of 13-1509, the willful failure to carry/complete passage, states that a person "who has authorization" to be in the US is not in violation of the section, which in my eyes means that even if I don't have my documentation with me, I do not violate the state law as long as I simply have the papers at my home (even though I am still in violation of US statutes requiring 18+ aliens to carry documentation). - webmaster for Tucson, AZ TV station.