Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sausages and Citizenship at Fenway

On the surface, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would defend people from another country who have illegally immigrated to the United States. If you’re illegal, and you’re caught, you should be sent home. Case closed.
But some folks want to do more than just deport illegal immigrants. Not only do they want to send them out the door, they want to hit them with that door on the way out and slam it shut in their faces while singing, “Now go, walk out the door, don’t turn around now, you’re not welcome anymore,” Gloria Gaynor-style. And this is why people across the US have marshaled their strength against the Arizona immigration law that Gov. Jan Brewer signed on April 23.
The latest example of such demonstrations against the Arizona law is the immigration-rights rally outside Fenway Park when the Boston Red Sox played the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday. Standing behind the sausage vendors on Landsdowne Street, protesters held signs with messages highlighting the fact that almost 23 percent of baseball players are immigrants, and urging baseball commissioner Bud Selig to withdraw the 2011 All-Star Game from Phoenix.
Granted, the Arizona law has plenty of defenders. Sixty percent of voters supported it in a nationwide Rasmussen Reports poll in late April, Newsmax magazine reported. But if immigration-rights advocates keep getting their message out, like they did on Tuesday, maybe that number will change. For the law is a mix of redundancy and repugnancy. “The law … makes it a crime to be in the country illegally,” Newsmax reported. (Isn’t that kind of repetitive?) If an immigrant can’t prove that he or she has the proper documents to reside in the US, they could face arrest, a jail sentence of up to six months, and a $2,500 fine … as opposed to simple deportation. “Piling on,” I believe, is the equivalent expression in sports.
Fenway is not the first sports venue where immigration-rights advocates denounced the law. The National Basketball Association’s Phoenix Suns showed their distaste for their state’s legislation by wearing “Los Suns” jerseys, reflecting the Mexican and Central American heritage of many of the 460,000 or so illegal immigrants in Arizona. New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick considered this move pure cynicism, wondering whether the Suns owners would have been so magnanimous if they “discovered that hordes of people were sneaking into Suns' games without paying.” One of the reader comments to Mushnick’s piece, however, put him straight: “(If) those same people had to sit two-to-a-seat, clean up other people's vomit and repair broken urinals once they've sneaked in, then maybe management wouldn't be so opposed to it.”
It was refreshing to see that people are so committed to mobilizing against the meanness in Arizona that they showed up to a Boston ballpark to protest. (Too bad they probably didn’t get to enjoy the game.) Boston and Massachusetts enjoyed a reputation for fairness in the 19th century that, while sullied at times in recent decades, has continued with the immigration issue. Here’s hoping the immigration-rights advocates who made their stand at Fenway continue spreading their message.

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