(Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
Immigrant rights groups protested this evening outside Fenway Park as the Red Sox begin a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team representing a state that stirred up controversy when it recently passed a strict new immigration law.
The Diamondbacks have been dogged at stadiums across the country this spring after the passage of the law.
In addition to the Arizona law, the Fenway protesters also criticized the Massachusetts Senate's passage last month of amendments restricting illegal immigrants' access to government benefits in this state.
The groups, who gathered on Landsdowne Street amid food vendors and fans, said they fear racial profiling, and urged politicians to instead create a path to legal residency for the millions of immigrants in the United States illegally. They chanted and carried signs saying "We are all Arizona," saying they were protesting the legislation, not the players.
"We're not going to let a law like Arizona's happen in Massachusetts," said Yessenia Alfaro, director of organizing for the Chelsea Collaborative, and a US citizen originally from El Salvador, as she joined other protesters behind a tight row of sausage stands on Lansdowne Street. "I believe in the American dream. This is my country, and my children's country. We came here for a better life."
The demonstration generated mixed reaction from baseball fans, from scowls to smiles of support. Most passers-by ignored them, wrapped up in the pageantry of the game.
Richard Matckie, 42, of New Hampshire, criticized the protest.
"All the people who want to support [immigrants here illegally] should take their paychecks and support them," he said.
But Andy Adams, 44 of Waltham, said his church was considering canceling its conference in Arizona because of the controversy, and praised the protest.
"I think it's great," he said with a smile, standing with standing with his dad, Ron. "It gives you another reason to dislike the opposing team."
The Arizona law makes it a state crime to be in the United States without proper documents and requires police to question those they suspect of being in the country illegally.
The law has ignited calls for a national boycott of a state where nearly 15 percent of residents are immigrants (a number similar to Massachusetts), but more than 30 percent of those immigrants are Latino.
The Boston City Council voted to boycott Arizona, the Phoenix Suns wore "Los Suns" jerseys at a recent game to support Latinos, and musicians Daryl Hall and John Oates canceled a post-game concert planned next month at Arizona's baseball stadium.
Nearly 28 percent of major league baseball players are immigrants -- a fact that opponents of Arizona's law are highlighting to urge baseball leadership to take a stand.
The Major League Baseball Players Association criticized the law in April, saying they worried about foreign-born players being targeted when they visited for games or spring training. Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett, who is on the executive committee, and third-baseman Adrian Beltre have spoken out against the law.
In addition, more than 100,000 people have signed an on-line petition urging baseball commissioner Bud Selig to move the 2011 All-Star game out of Phoenix, according to Fenton Communications, a Washington firm helping to organize the effort.
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