Sports are pure. At the end of every game, series or season, there's clear-cut winner and loser. There's no gray area. I may think that the Cavaliers are better than the Magic, but if the Magic beat them four out of six times in a postseason series, it's pretty hard for me to argue the other way. Same thing when the Yankees win another World Series, Urban Meyer and Florida takes Tennessee behind the woodshed again, or Roger Federer beats Andy Roddick for the 211th straight time. Everything is out in the open. One is clearly better than the other. Again, there's no gray area.
Politics, well they're not so easy. Bills are passed daily on the municipal, state and federal levels. They're pushed through by democrats and republicans, people from the right and people from the left. Half of them we don't even know about, and even more we could care less on. But with politics there's no right or wrong, and in often case no winner or loser. There's gray area. Lots of it. And too often it leads to division in the community, and even occasionally between friends and family.
Which is why I don't like politics and never have. Too many arguments over stuff you can't control. Too many people taking things too personally. Sports are different. They're easy-breezy and pretty laid back, just like I like to consider myself. With sports, disagreements end with me owing my friend a beer. Political fights end with me and the same friend not speaking to each other.
So if I were to ever write about politics, it'd have to be about something pretty serious, something I considered pretty darn important for me to get on my soapbox and speak up about.
And when it comes to Arizona's new immigration bill, Senate Bill 1070, I feel like I need to say something.
I just hope I don't lose any friends over it.
For those who aren't familiar with the bill, the premise is pretty simple. In Arizona, a state that borders the country of Mexico, and is home to approximately 460,000 Hispanics, police will now have the authority to stop anyone that they have "reasonable," suspicion is an illegal immigrant. The premise of the bill is good in spirits, and is an attempt to keep the citizens of Arizona safe, and keep illegal drugs from being trafficked over the border of our country. Which is good. The problem is that the execution of this bill is modern day racisim.
Now before I go any further, I think it's important that I say a couple of quick things. I come from Puerto-Rican descent, which probably isn't a surprise to many of you, considering, well that my last name is "Torres." My grandparents both came to this country (legally) as teenagers, and my dad was born in the United State in 1952. I'm not saying my background gives me any more or less right to speak on this subject than anyone else, but figured I'd throw it out there anyway.
I also think it's important to note that I've spent quite a bit of time in Arizona, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I love the place. I was out there last March for Spring Training (Remember, this is a sports site after all), and lived there for close to a month in August. I have nothing but good things to say about the state. The Tempe Marketplace on a nice spring night is the closest thing I can imagine to heaven to on Earth. Spring training was great. And while making a pitstop on our way back from California last summer, me and my buddies are three of probably 41 people ever, to try a "Date Milkshake" at the Dateland rest stop. Believe me when I say, everyone in Arizona is grimacing right now. I have a friend who's lived in the state for 30 years who still refuses to try one.
Maybe most importantly, I want to make one thing, super-duper, crystal clear, I'm not pro-illegal alien. No one is. I don't want to pay taxes for anyone who isn't a citizen of my country, and don't want them taking jobs or resources from friends and family in the social services. This column (And my belief is ultimately this bill) isn't about giving rights to illegal immigrants. It's about taking rights from American citizens. People like you and I. Again, it's about the execution of the law.
You see, I'm a little confused. Because when Arizona governor Jan Brewer spoke about the bill the other day, she said that "Police officers are going to be respectful. They know what the laws are. Racial profiling is illegal." Which is a cute statement, it really is.
Except to follow through on this bill and enforce it, I don't know how police and authorities can do anything but racially profile the citizens of Arizona. I mean, it's not like illegal aliens are walking through the streets of Phoenix with Mexican flags draped over their backs.
So I suppose for officers to have "reasonable," suspicion that someone is illegal, they'll have to base their judgements on totally arbitrary and trivial things. I mean after all, what gives someone "reasonable" suspicion that someone could be illegal? Skin-tone? A Spanish accent? Facial hair? Even John McCain's own daughter (who brought up many excellent points in this piece) said that the law "Is essentially a liscense to pull someone over for being Hispanic." I don't want to misconstrue what Ms. McCain said, because I think she goes on to bring up several other good points, but at the same time, if stopping someone because of skin-tone or accent isn't racial profiling, I don't know what is.
Now if the bill is executed as planned, will it work to clean up the illegal immigration problem? A little, I suppose. But what about the first and second generation citizens of this country, who are here legally and are going to end up getting harrassed? Take my grandma, who passed away in 2006 for example.
My grandma was a simple woman, someone who pretty much kept to herself, and never bothered anyone. Her only real joys in life from what I could see, were her family, and her dog Mitzi, who she gushed over like 16-year-old girls do over Derek Jeter.
There was nothing she wouldn't have done for that dog, and most of her daily routine consisted of her taking the dog out for walks, three, four, five times a day. After all, what else does a 70-something, retired woman, who lives alone have to keep herself occupied?
I guess in regards to Senate Bill 1070, my question is, what if my grandma forgot her paperwork on one of those walks? Even after 50 years as a legal citizen in this country, she still couldn't have explained herself to police. Her English just wasn't that good. The same with millions of first generation, American citizens from all backgrounds, not just Hispanic. Would my grandma have ended up in jail because of this bill? How many of my grandma's are there in Arizona? How would you like it if you were visiting Arizona and ended up in jail because you left your wallet at the hotel? This bill is taking away the basic civil liberties of citizens of this country.
Again though, this law is in place to protect the citizens of Arizona. I get that.
As someone acutely pointed out to me on Twitter, if you ever go to Europe, authorities are constantly checking your documents to ensure the safety of their citizens. He was right.
Of course, at the same time, I've been to Europe. And it's one thing to have your passport checked on a train, plane or any other time you're crossing a border, and another thing entirely what's happening in Arizona. I spent over a month in Europe, and while my documentation was checked time and time again, I was never stopped while drinking coffee in France, or on a beach in Barcelona, simply because I "looked," American. Big difference.
This situation isn't the same as a DUI check point, like someone else pointed out. DUI checkpoints stop everyone, black, white, man, woman, tall, ugly, missing teeth, lazy-eyed. Whatever. They don't simply stop young males in their 20's because there's "reasonable," evidence that they may have been out at a bar that night.
If this law is about stopping drugs from coming into the country, again I'm cool with that. But at the same time, does anyone actually think that randomly and arbitrarily pulling over motorists will stop drugs from getting into this country? Drugs are going to get into America by plane, boat, car, in the stomachs of runners, just like they are now. I commend our effort to fight the war on drugs, but I guess I don't understand how checking the ID of a dark-skinned man at Wal-Mart is going to do that.
Just about the only factor in this whole mess that I don't have much of an explanation for, is Governor Brewer's argument that this law is necessary because of a lack of support from the Federal Government.
(On a random side note, I just looked at the picture of Governor Brewer again, and she strikes me as someone who spends her Saturday mornings at the country club, playing tennis and gossiping with the girls over a few too many cocktails. Would I be profiling her, if I asked for advice on my back hand, or what she really thought about that new blonde mom that's been hanging by the pool all morning? Just asking)
Again, I don't know the history and the politics involved, and don't want to head down a slippery slope. What I do know is that a quick Google search reveals that Arizona's illegal immigrant population fell by 100,000 individuals from 2008 to 2009. I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with Governor Brewer, but it seems like somebody must be doing something right.
I guess more than anything, this law, and the controversy around it, has taught me that I don't know my best friends, people that I'm closest with, as well as I thought I did.
I spent over an hour on the phone last night with my buddy who lives in Arizona, debating every angle of this issue. Which is especially surprising considering that most of our conversations center around subjects like "I knew that 12th shot wasn't going to sit well," and "Serena Williams...Would You?"
By the end, he hadn't swayed me to his side, nor did I sway him to mine. And there's nothing wrong with that. I respect the hell out of his opinion on the subject (Basically that illegal immigrants are sapping America's resources and job market), even if I disagree with it. I also know that many of you probably don't agree with what I'm saying either, but I hope that at the very least, you've listened to my opinion, digested it, and will continue to read the rest of my work (Back to sports on Friday. Promise!!)
But I stand by what I've said.
When I first read about this bill, I decided to call my dad, again, a man who was born a first generation American, and a man who has served our country in the Army, put himself through school and eventually earned a Masters degree from NYU. He's also dealt with perceived and real racism, since his childhood growing up in a household where Spanish was the primary language spoken.
Like me, my dad is an easy-breezy guy, someone who'd rather be laughing and joking, instead of talking about anything even remotely serious.
Also like me, my dad has a motor-mouth, and can turn a one sentence question into a 25 minute, tangled response (Believe me when I say that my friends CONSTANTLY make fun of me for the same thing.)
But when I asked him his opinion on the bill in Arizona, his response wasn't tangled or rambling, but prompt and simple.
"I think it's disgusting," he said.
After all this time, and all these words, I couldn't have said it better myself.
Also, for his thoughts on all things sports (and DEFINITELY NOT politics) please follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres and Facebook.com/AaronTorresSports)