Thursday, July 29, 2010
Miguel Batista Comments On The Arizona Immigration Law
Miguel Batista is a board member of The Major League Baseball Players Association--the Players' Union. Our Washington Nationals pitcher has closely watched the brewing controversy over the new immigration law statues that Arizona is trying to implement within their state borders. The uncertainty over how the laws would be carried out has concerned professional sports teams nationwide. And The Players' Union has been closely watching the proceedings.
Yesterday, a federal judge blocked the most contested portions of Arizona's new immigration law one day before it was to take affect--including a provision that required all immigrants to carry their papers with them at all times. Our Washington Nationals would have been the first professional team to visit Arizona had the law become official.
Nats320 gathered Miguel Batista's reaction to the temporary restraining order before last night's game versus The Atlanta Braves:
Nats320: Are you comfortable talking about the Arizona Immigration Law and how it might affect professional baseball players?
Batista: Yes, I have been talking about it for a while now.
Nats320: Good, because today a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order for the most controversial aspects of the law.
Batista: Yeah, that’s what I heard.
Nats320: So we are curious as to what your response is to that?
Batista: I got a text from the union saying it was knocked down by the judge and it would not be implemented. And I believe that is going to be good for a lot of people. Personally, I believe the decision (in Arizona) that was suppose to solve an immigration problem was taken in the wrong direction. I think there are better ways to do it. That law would hurt that state more than anything. Look, financially, how much income would have stopped coming to Arizona? As a tourist, you don’t want to go to a place where you are going to be harassed. One of my points was that nobody had ever come out and specified what makes a person suspicious? What gives the police officer the right to ask you for your papers?
Why? Is it because I have an accent? Or because I don’t have blonde hair or blue eyes? What actually stereotypes a person to make them submitted to that law? And I believe that would be a very big controversial issue? So I am glad it is out of the way for a while.
Nats320: As a union, was there anything you were trying to do--working with Major League Baseball--to bring your issues forward?
Batista: Well this issue was brought to the table and we talked about it on the board (MLBPA), but it’s a thing that people need to understand it’s a political issue.It’s a state issue and has nothing to do particularly with baseball. We actually advise our members that it’s a personal decision. As a union, we will respect your decision and back you up, but only until it actually doesn’t affect our members directly. We have to wait and see how things turn out. And we were hoping after the snowball kept rolling, the issue would get big enough for people to try to stop it and we would not have to jump in.
We believe, in a lot of ways, that we would be hurt. But not only would Major League Baseball be hurt, but every sport and every team. Look at Arizona, they have them all--from soccer to football to baseball, basketball and hockey. And when you look at the rosters of all the sport teams, 60 percent of the players are all foreigners.
Nats320: Was it then a concern on a personal basis that if they go to Arizona to play, they would have to carry their documents?
Batista: A lot of the guys were very uncomfortable with the idea. And the issue was raised because the All-Star game is scheduled to be played there next year--which would have brought a lot of factors. First of all, the All-Star game is a different story. If you get chosen for the All-Star game and you tell the commissioner you don’t want to go: ‘I don’t believe I want to be harassed.’ He can’t tell you: ‘No, go.’ But when you have a contract when your team is going to play in Arizona and you tell your team you don’t want to go, then that becomes a labor issue. You are violating your contract because you are not going to work as required, but you have a legitimate, and I believe this is actually what we are talking about, we have a problem that you are backed up by the (U.S.) Constitution. People are arguing on your behalf, and you believe, they are violating your constitutional rights. So that is going to be a big mess. Hopefully, we will never get to that point, but it’s important that people respect that.
Nats320: This issue is probably going to end up in The United States Supreme Court. But is it not the team’s responsibility to protect you if they are going to take you to that state to work?
Batista: Yeah, but protecting you has different standards. You can’t just have a guy that is walking with you with your papers signed right behind you (chucking) saying: ‘Yeah, I do have my green card!’ That would be a very controversial issue because, like I said before, the (Arizona) law doesn’t specify what type of people fall into that category. And what makes a person suspicious? If it’s fully up to the police officers discretion, then a lot of police officers are going to be accused of stereotyping, abuse of power and things like that.
So I believe this is a very sensitive subject, especially for a lot of latino players in The Big Leagues that don’t speak english very well. And when you see them walking in groups, you never hear them speaking anything but spanish. We have some of our biggest superstars who don’t know more than three words in english. So this would be a very controversial thing for us.
Nats320: As a member of The Washington Nationals, if this law did not get knocked down today, your team would have been the first professional team to visit Arizona under the new law. Had you talked to other players on the team about it? And what might happen?
Batista: No, not really. Some of the guys have expressed their feelings about it, but we haven’t had a meeting as a team for it because regardless of the fact that we are The Nationals, we are a part of the MLB Player’s Association. So we have to do everything as a union. And in being the first one’s going there, I believe our President (of the MLBPA) is going to be there by the time we are there and that would be a big help. If something were to happen, then we would have our biggest eyewitness there to bring the matter to congress and tell how ugly this could turn.
Nats320: President Obama is also against the implementation of this law.
Batista: He’s actually the biggest representation of what this country is all about. We all came from other countries. We all land on mother’s rock--as they say. And if you look at him, he looks spanish. He looks like any other person from another country. So I don’t think he would like someone to walk in and say: ‘Mr. President, can I see your papers please?’ (laughter all around)
Nats320: But there are some who would want to do that.
Batista: But it’s an issue that I am glad is being looked at and if it ends up in the Supreme Court then that is what this country is all about. Men and women have rights as an employee, as an employer, as a state, and as a citizen. Things are going to be brought to court in trying to find the best way to find a solution to the problem--to the benefit of all the people.
Photo Credit: Getty Images