Baseball and Immigration

added 5/15/2010 by Bob Hulsey

A few days ago, the Associated Press was spinning:

NEW YORK -- Baseball commissioner Bud Selig is ignoring calls to move next year's All-Star Game from Phoenix because of Arizona's new immigration law.

Selig did not ignore them. He dismissed them. Those are two different actions. Selig highlighted baseball's record on immigration and ethnic diversity, pronounced baseball fit and saw no need to join boycotts or move the All-Star Game. At this time. Bud the Politician can, no doubt, change his mind although I doubt he will.

Unless you've been under a rock, you know the Governor of Arizona recently signed a bill that gave state and local law enforcement the same power to question and detain suspected illegal immigrants that the federal government already has – and is ignoring. (See AP? I can use the word correctly!)

The law was approved by 70% of Arizonans and the governor's poll numbers saw a 16% uptick after she signed it so one can conclude the bill was largely the will of the Arizona people. However, overriding the will of the people seems to be all in vogue in Washington these days and some are hoping to quash it.

The bill has set off left-wing protests against all things Arizonan, including a boycott of Arizona Iced Tea which (it tells you right on the label) is made and bottled in New York.

Our local lamebrains in Austin announced a toothless boycott, since they already do practically no business with Arizona. It reminded me of when the Austin City Council passed a resolution declaring a boycott against doing business in the state of Colorado after an anti-gay rights measure was passed by their voters in the 1980s. After approving the boycott resolution, the council members adjourned for an Aspen retreat.

The Phoenix Suns of the National Basketball Association responded to the new law by siding with illegal immigrants, donning jersies that said "Los Suns" for a home playoff game (wouldn't "Los Sol" have been more correct?). However, solidarity with illegals would have been better exemplified if the Suns had let their Mexican fans enter the U.S. Airways Center without a ticket, sit anywhere they wish and charge the paying fans for their refreshments. Then a few illegals could visit the Suns locker room after the game and sell drugs to the players.

Selig has reason to feel immigration is not his problem. Outside of construction and lawn maintenance, it is hard to find an American business that does more to reach out to immigrants than professional baseball. If someone wants to come to America who can hit .280 and play a nifty shortstop, Major League Baseball welcomes him to this country with open arms, even if he fibs a little about his age or uses a few unnatural chemicals to hit the ball a long way.

Of course, these are players who entered the U.S. through the front door. Arizonans are plagued by immigrants coming in through the back door – unannounced and uninvited, straining government services and increasing crime rates.

That's not to say illegals don't have legitimate reasons to come here and sometimes endure amazing hardships to get here. Certainly, not all of them commit crimes once they come in. Whatever solution is eventually crafted will need to recognize that fewer honest people will use the back door if the lawmakers can make it easier to get in through the front door. Once restrictions are relaxed, fewer will need to sneak across and the focus can return to keeping the bad element from sneaking in with them.

The All-Star Game is now a political tool. The rights to future games are payback for passing new taxes or municipal bonds so new stadiums can be built. And once they are built, Major League Baseball will eventually hold an All-Star Game there. Did you notice how Houston voters approved taxes and bonds to build what is today known as Minute Maid Park and, in 2004, Houston hosted the All-Star Game? 2011 is Phoenix’s turn.

That's how it works: fleece the voters for a new yard, get an All-Star game. That's why I don't think the 2011 contest will be leaving Arizona. The All-Star Game is the bounty promised Arizona citizens back when they voted to build the stadium in the first place. To pull out now would be like reneging on a contract.

Instead, Bud the Politician will make some conciliatory gestures like only Bud can conceive, such as forcing all teams to retire Fernando Valenzuela's number or donating 5,000 tickets to La Raza or having Los Lonely Boys sing both national anthems.

What will be more interesting is if baseball's Hispanic players (very few of whom are Mexicans) decide that they'll boycott the 2011 game. What an interesting sight that might be with only white players or whites with a sprinkling of black and Asian players at an All-Star Game, just like the 1950s. That could be a situation Bud Selig could not ignore. Or dismiss.