MLB All-Stars Irked, But Otherwise Silent on Arizona

PHOENIX – Carlos Beltran offers a weary shrug when asked about immigration. The issue burned throughout baseball last summer, and still rages in the country. But at this All-Star Game, in this controversial state, the sport has decided to turn to sunnier matters.

“I am going to be there,” Beltran said last week. Had he boycotted the game, he would have stood alone. The Players Association and its members decided not to boycott, as some threatened 12 months ago.

Last July, in the visitors’ clubhouse at Arizona’s Chase Field, site of this year’s game, Beltran offered strong comments to the Daily News.

“I’m against this law,” he said then, referring to Arizona SB 1070, the law intended to address illegal immigration that many view as Draconian, or even racist. “There are a lot of Latinos who come here and try to have a better future.”

Asked then if he would attend the 2011 All-Star Game if selected, Beltran said, “Would I come? I don’t know.”

Nearly one year later, the Mets’ outfielder explained his decision not to boycott.

“Well, I’m just one person,” Beltran said last week at Dodger Stadium. “There is nothing I can do about this law.”

Major League Baseball has taken the same position since last summer, when calls to boycott arose. League officials have maintained privately that moving the All-Star Game, especially from a state that hosts spring training facilities, would have been a logistical quagmire, and would not have affected policy on immigration.

Union officials say that encouraging players to boycott would amount to a work stoppage, a significant gesture in this time of peaceful collective bargaining negotiations. So while there will be protests outside Tuesday night’s game, and there remain groups calling for players to protest, baseball has decided to pull back from the issue.

What is this law that provoked so much furor (and now, retreat)?

Michael Wildes, an immigration attorney and former federal prosecutor, believes that SB 1070 emerged because of a void in leadership in Washington: Because Congress and the President have not addressed immigration with deep and meaningful reform, states like Arizona – the state attorney general estimates that Arizona takes in approximately 400,000 illegal immigrants from Mexico each year, resulting in economic and cultural tensions between communities – became more proactive.

“In the absence of real leadership in Washington, states have begun to take it upon themselves to deal with the lack of enforcement,” Wildes says. “But despite that, the states should not reach like this. How would they (enforce) this? Because people look different or have accents, they’re going to stop them?”

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