Debate over immigration law rages on
May 14, 2010 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- Protests are heating up again over Arizona's controversial immigration law. Demonstrators turned their focus on the Chicago Cubs Friday, urging the team to move their spring training home from Arizona.
The protesters want the Cubs to train in Florida instead. That move is possible because the Cubs contract for their Arizona facility is expiring.
Friday's protest comes as the national spotlight shines on the Chicago area this week over Highland Park High School's decision to cancel a trip to Arizona by the girls varsity basketball team.
Highland Park High School finds itself in the middle of the national debate about the Arizona law which deputizes the police to check people for their citizenship. The Highland Park saga was on the minds of immigration reform protesters Friday who want the Chicago Cubs to abandon spring training in Arizona.
"Unfortunately with this law that passed in Arizona, I don't feel comfortable traveling to Arizona to watch the Cubs, because I feel that I'm gonna get discriminated against ," said Jorge Neri, protester.
"It will now be legal to tell Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano that they cannot go to the park for first pitch because they need to go to jail in Phoenix, not because they have done anything wrong, but because they have brown skin and 'look like an undocumented immigrant,' " said Leone Jose Bicchieri, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
For those coming to the Friendly Confines for an afternoon of baseball, the intrusion of politics on the national pastime was welcomed by some...
"As soon as the money stops flowing into Arizona or any other state that does this, you're gonna start seeing being changes," said Nile Frederick, Cubs fan.
But not by others...
"The cops can stop you in your car right now and say, 'Hey, you have suspicious behavior,' or whatever--so they're just checking to make sure you're legal," said Megan Jackson , Cubs fan.
Former Alaska governor and GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is promising to raise money for the Highland Park girls basketball team to travel to Arizona despite the school board's decision.
Palin's entry in the debate elevates its intensity. On WLS-AM radio Friday, the mood political observers say created the conditions for passage of the Arizona law comes across.
"We don't like when it when folks come in and pretend they're here legally when they are not," said one caller.
And, in Highland Park, the city knows its name is becoming shorthand in a national debate. But after agreeing to speak to ABC 7 about the impact of that, Highland Park Mayor Michael Belsky ducked out of his office -- without comment.
"This is about making sure that every single girl at Highland Park High School has the opportunity to try out for the basketball team and travel with them safely, and going to Arizona automatically excludes and discourages a the number of diverse students at Highland Park High School from doing so," said Elizabeth Kapnick, Highland Park High School junior.
The Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights says they got about 1,300 petitions signed asking the Cubs to move their spring training facilities to Florida after 2011.
As for Highland Park, there is no indication from the school district that they other going to change their decision about allowing their girls' basketball team from the high school to travel to Arizona.
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