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How SB1070 may ruin Arizona school sports

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For all the talk about the local NBA team’s “Los Suns” statement and possible sports boycotts of Arizona over its new law demanding police play brownshirt with brown people, the Arizona Republic looks at a more salient, everyday sports issue regarding the bill: how is it going to affect high school sports?

That seems like a fairly minor concern, but the story brings home the point that in many areas of Arizona, they’re not worried about fans boycotting games. They’re worried about athletes leaving town and, in effect, boycotting games.

From the Republic:

It’s impossible to accurately measure the influence SB 1070 will have on high school sports in Arizona. But coaches and administrators in school districts that are heavily Hispanic fear a reduction in enrollment this fall as families leave the state, leading to fewer kids playing sports.

“We think it will probably have a chilling effect,” said Craig Pletenik, spokesman for the Phoenix Union High School District, whose enrollment is 78 percent Hispanic. “This law doesn’t just affect those who may not be documented; it impacts a lot of immigrant families with American-born kids.”

Katherine Bareiss, director of community relations for Mesa Public Schools, is concerned that individual schools within districts could take a bigger enrollment hit, thus creating a competitive disadvantage in some sports. Mesa High, for example, is 49.5 percent Hispanic while Mesa Mountain View is only 14.2 percent.

Bareiss says that she knows that illegal immigrants are part of the scholastic and athletic makeup of her school district, but that it doesn’t ask, and it doesn’t want to know. Legally, nobody has to tell.

Under a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Plyler v. Doe, children of illegal immigrants (or children who are illegal themselves) are protected from discrimination in public schools. The 5-4 decision ruled against a Texas state law that would deny funding education to children of illegal immigrants, and denied the Tyler (Texas) school district’s attempt to collect a $1,000 per-child fee from illegals. The Supreme Court ruled that the state had no compelling interest for discrimination, particularly against children, who presumably had no say in where they lived, and their immigrant status. (The Republic story cites ths case.) Except to hear more about Plyler v. Doe as legal battles over the new Arizona law take shape.

However, schools’ concerns are not just about whether there will be enough athletes for a team once SB1070 is in full effect. They also wonder what will happen to the athletes that remain. Again, from the Republic:

What if, Pletenik said, a bus driver carrying a team to a sporting event makes an illegal left-hand turn and is stopped by a policeman, who, after peering inside, asks players to show proof of citizenship?

I’ll take it one step further. What if the bus driver is asked to show papers? What if the people who maintain the field are asked to show papers? What if the people who clean the gym are asked to show papers?

I don’t want to turn this into the same flip tone that inspired the Naperville (Ill.) Sun to run this headline the day of a large immigration rally in downtown Chicago: “The Day the Lawns Weren’t Mowed.” But what Arizona athletic programs will discover — heck, what all of Arizona will discover, is just how integrated illegal immigrants are into the fabric of life.

You could look at the scenarios drawn up by the educators in the Republic article and say, hey, they’re illegal, right? So what’s the problem? And, technically, yes, they’re illegal, so, yes, they are violating the law. However, the dranconian Arizona law — on top of the state’s lousy economy and little hope of another construction boom anytime soon — could drive out not only illegal Latinos, but legal ones as well.

So that’s why you might see some emptier fields at Arizona high schools very soon. And a lot of white people griping about why the gym isn’t as clean as it used to be.

Written by rkcookjr

May 7, 2010 at 1:04 am

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