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Immigration law protesters at All-Star game

Protestors gathered outside the 2011 MLB All-Star Game in downtown Phoenix. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Critics of a polarizing immigration law in Arizona protested the legislation Tuesday in triple-digit heat outside Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in downtown Phoenix, drawing sideways glances from fans who were more interested in getting to the game.

Two separate pro-immigrant groups protested outside of Chase Field before the game, with one quietly passing out white ribbons that symbolized peace and unity and the other loudly chanting in bullhorns and marching in circles with signs that read “Boycott hate” and “Stand with us.”

SB1070, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer in April, requires all immigrants to obtain or carry immigration registration papers and requires police, while enforcing other laws, to question people’s immigration status if there is a reasonable suspicion they’re in the country illegally.

The law is being challenged in federal court.

“You can’t just pick up someone off the street and say, ‘What’s your name, show me your papers,'” said Antonio Medrano, an immigrant-rights activist who traveled from San Francisco’s Bay Area to protest the law. “It’s called racism, and they had it in South Africa with apartheid and they had it in Germany with Nazis.”

Other protesters yelled into a bullhorn with chants of “You can’t hide, we can see your racist side!” and “Stop injustice!”

They were staked outside the main intersection in front of Chase Field to get as many baseball fans as possible to see them. Some of the fans looked at them with curiosity, some with irritation, and others with ambivalence as they made their way to the entrance.

Margarito Blancas was with a different group of protesters who passed out white ribbons and sheets of paper with information about the law. Most people refused to take them.

He said if his message gets across to just one person, it’s worth it.

“They think this is just baseball and baseball has nothing to do with politics,” he said. “But look at the history of baseball with Jackie Robinson and his impact.”

Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947.

Blancas said he came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1981 and is a legal resident, but that some members of his family are not here legally.

“Back then it was different. It was more welcoming,” he said. “Now I feel less than comfortable just driving around. I have brown skin color, so I could be pulled over for any reason.”

A much-smaller group of counter-protesters were across the street, carrying signs in support of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and other signs in support of SB1070.

“Illegal immigration is what it is,” said Andy Figueroa, who belongs to the group Latino and Legal Immigrant Tea Party Patriots. “It has nothing to do with racism or civil rights. When you travel to another country, you have to have paperwork.”

He said it comes down to fairness.

“It’s like being at the DMV and waiting in line to get your license renewed and someone cuts in front of you,” he said. “They want to cut in front of everyone.”

After SB1070 initially passed, activists called for baseball to move the All-Star game from Arizona. Commissioner Bud Selig declined and said it was a political issue, prompting critics to ask players, coaches and fans to boycott the game as part of a wider call for companies to stop doing business with Arizona.

Although at the time several baseball players spoke out against the law and said they might skip the All-Star game if picked, the protests largely fizzled out and there was no indication Tuesday that any players or coaches wouldn’t play because of the law.

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