New recruits for Major League Baseball teams are headed to Arizona this week for the Arizona Rookie League, and teams don’t want their players getting into trouble with the law. Not because they’re worried players will commit a crime, but because many are from Latin America, and teams fear their players’ brown skin could attract the attention of law enforcement officers who are getting ready to start enforcing SB 1070 when it goes into effect on July 29.
AP reports that both the Milwaukee Brewers and Cleveland Indians equip their players with photo ID cards that have contact information for a representative from the team for police to contact, should a player be stopped. Teams are also holding seminars so players know about the political and social environment of the state.
The program, a rookie-level professional league, starts today in the Phoenix area, and will host 150 players from Latin America alone through August.
Latino players make up a significant part of the MLB ranks. Many are from the Dominican Republican, Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba. And in the weeks immediately after Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law, players of all nationalities spoke out against the law, which allows law enforcement to detain and question any person they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is in the country without papers. San Diego Padres’ star Adrian Gonzalez has said he will boycott the 2011 All-Star game in Phoenix if the MLB does not respond to calls to move the game.
New York Mets' catcher Rod Barajas told the NY Times: "“If they happen to pull someone over who looks like they are of Latin descent, even if they are a U.S. citizen, that is the first question that is going to be asked. But if a blond-haired, blue-eyed Canadian gets pulled over, do you think they are going to ask for their papers? No.”
A coalition of groups including MALDEF, the ACLU, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the NAACP and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center filed a lawsuit challenging the law in May. And in early June the same coalition filed for injunctive relief to stop the law from going into effect.
But MLB teams aren't waiting to hear back from the judge. "We brought in a local police officer to explain the situation and issued each player an ID card so they don't have to rely on carrying around their visas and paperwork with them," Cleveland Indians' player development Ross Atkins told the AP. If only every other immigrant in the state had the confidence of that kind of protection.