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Arizona law raises union ire

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 1, 2010

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Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Michael Weiner issued a statement yesterday calling for the repeal or modification of Arizona’s controversial new immigration law.

No vote was taken by the membership, but Weiner said the statement reflected the position of the entire union. The law, Weiner said, could have a “negative impact’’ on players who are citizens of other countries.

“All of these players, as well as their families, could be adversely affected, even though their presence in the United States is legal. Each of them must be ready to prove, at any time, his identity and the legality of his being in Arizona to any state or local official with suspicion of his immigration status,’’ Weiner said. “This law also may affect players who are US citizens but are suspected by law enforcement of being of foreign descent.’’

Red Sox righthander Josh Beckett, a member of the MLBPA executive committee, said the topic was discussed at length before Weiner issued the statement.

“In most cases you won’t want to see baseball get involved in politics but it can be unavoidable,’’ Beckett said. “We have a team there, half the teams go to spring training there. It’s something we’re involved with.’’

The Arizona law makes it a state crime to be in the United States illegally and would allow police to question anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant.

Beckett and other players said the MLBPA had concerns about racial profiling.

Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre, who as a member of the Seattle Mariners spent long periods of time in Arizona for spring training, is concerned about how the law will affect young players.

“For an older guy, we can handle it,’’ said Beltre, who is from the Dominican Republic. “But you have guys 17 or 18 years old there for spring training. If they forget their papers, something could happen.’’

Six current Red Sox players were born outside the United States, a percentage that reflects the rest of baseball. As of Opening Day, 28 percent of the players were foreign-born.

Shortstop Marco Scutaro, a Venezuelan, was aware of the new law and said he supported the MLBPA’s involvement.

“It’s kind of crazy,’’ he said. “It doesn’t seem right.’’

Major League Baseball already has discussed the ramifications of moving the 2012 All-Star Game out of Phoenix as a protest. Demonstrations against the law have been held at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Diamondbacks managing partner Ken Kendrick issued a statement that said he shared the same concerns as Weiner and called on the federal government to act on the immigration issue.

“The fallout of recent state legislation has a direct impact on many of our players, employees and fans in Arizona,’’ Kendrick said. “Unfortunately, this whole situation is sad and disappointing for all of us who are associated with the Arizona Diamondbacks.’’

If the law goes into effect, Weiner said the MLBPA “will consider additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our members.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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