As Protests Continue, The Phoenix Suns Speak Out Against Arizona's New Immigration Laws

Over the past few weeks, there's been quite the furor created by the passage of a new immigration policy in Arizona, and with good reason. A brief synopsis from CNN reveals a law that's almost breathtaking in its severity, and quite possibly unconstitutional.

Among the new regulations are mandates that all immigrants carry their registration documents at all times, and that police question anyone that's suspected of taking residence illegally. Should police encounter any person committing even a minor crime (noise complaints, speeding, etc), they have the right to demand documentation. For instance, if an immigrant—or someone that looks like an immigrant—is stopped for speeding, the authorities in Arizona have license to demand documentation, and if the person cannot produce his or her registration documents, they would be detained. In other words...

Have you ever left your house without your license?

Yeah?

Well, if you're an immigrant to the United States in Arizona—or you even look like an immigrant—you'd be risking arrest if you leave your house without your license, birth certificate and your social security card.

It sounds dramatic, but witness this recent incident, where an American-born truck driver was pulled over and detained after providing his license to authorities:

Abdon was told he did not have enough paperwork on him when he pulled into a weigh station to have his commercial truck checked. He provided his commercial driver’s license and a social security number but ended up handcuffed.

An agent called his wife and she had to leave work to drive home and grab other documents like his birth certificate.

A representative at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) returned 3TV’s calls after researching the incident and she said this was standard operating procedure. The agents needed to verify Abdon was in the country legally and it is not uncommon to ask for someone's birth certificate.  

To be clear: This stuff is really happening in Arizona.

And regardless of your politics or your perspective on the immigration issue, it's not surprising that the policy's encountered significant backlash. In fact, it's become such a major issue in the mainstream, that it's even sparked a minor uproar among pro athletes and pro sports. This past week, protests sprung up all throughout the country, including this one, at an Arizona Diamondbacks game at Wrigley Field.

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Many in the media have wondered whether Major League Baseball should pull the 2010 All-Star Game from Arizona this summer. For his part, Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez said this weekend that he'll "probably not play" if the All-Star Game is held in Arizona this summer. It began as a slow trickle, but as more people become aware of just what the Arizona law entails, the backlash has only intensified, as it's growing to include more and more athletes.

And now, according to SB Nation's Bright Side of the Sun, Wednesday night the Phoenix Suns will wear their "Los Suns" jerseys in protest of Arizona's backwards policy, and as an homage to all their Latino fans. As Suns owner Robert Sarver explained, "Our players and organization felt that wearing our "Los Suns" jerseys on Cinco de Mayo was a way for our team and our organization to honor our Latino community and the diversity of our league, the State of Arizona, and our nation. We are proud that 400 players from 36 countries compete in the NBA, and the league and the Suns have always considered that to be a great strength of the NBA."

He continued, saying "The frustration with the federal government's failure to deal with the issue of illegal immigration resulted in passage of a flawed state law. However intended, the result of passing this law is that our basic principles of equal rights and protection under the law are being called into question, and Arizona's already struggling economy will suffer even further setbacks at a time when the state can ill-afford them."

And then Steve Nash, the team's superstar and one of the most recognized players in the NBA, added this, "I think the law is very misguided. I think it is unfortunately to the detriment of our society and our civil liberties and I think it is very important for us to stand up for things we believe in. I think the law obviously can target opportunities for racial profiling. Things we don't want to see and don't need to see in 2010."

And while the Nash's public objections are somewhat predictable considering his history of activism on social and political issues, it's much rarer for a pro sports franchise to take any stance on such a polarized issue. Because let's face it: We use sports as way to escape those things.

But in this case, it's an admirable move in response to a law that most reasonable folks agree is overzealous. It's also an encouraging sign that while the NBA has no control over what happens in Arizona, neither the league nor the Suns will standby idle as the controversy over human rights simmers in the backdrop of a big playoff series.

Especially during an era when most teams and athletes are so concerned with the bottom line, it's refreshing to see an entire franchise step forward and take a stand on such a polarizing issue. Make no mistake: the Suns are risking a lot of money and public support by speaking out, they know this, and they're doing it anyway.

You may not like the Suns or agree with their politics here, but you gotta respect 'em for taking a stance, and letting the people of Arizona know that they don't support their state government's agenda. In the year 2010, that's very cool.

For more on this story and the reaction, check out our Suns community, Bright Side of the Sun.

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