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On Immigration, the NBA Has More Courage than the GOP

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Phoenix Suns, Charles Barkley Speak Up While McCain and Kyl Stand Down

Washington, DC –Arizona’s controversial new immigration law has sparked unprecedented criticism and activism from leaders in the National Basketball Association, especially in Arizona.  As an important social institution in American life, they have decided to stand up for American values and speak up against intolerance.  This stands in sharp contrast to most Republican policymakers, especially in Arizona.  As an important institution in American political life, Arizona’s GOP has decided to stand up for a law that puts a target on every Latino in Arizona, and speak up only for a riled up base. 

“It’s stunning that the NBA is showing more courage and leadership on immigration policy than the GOP,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice.  “The NBA should be proud of themselves.  Surely, their brand will be enhanced by their courage.  The GOP should be ashamed of themselves.  Surely, the degraded brand they already have with Latinos will be further tarnished by their pandering.” 

Here is what the NBA is doing and saying:

  • Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver, with support from his players, NBA Commissioner David Stern and the NBA Players Union, decided to have the team wear “Los Suns” uniforms last Wednesday to protest Arizona’s new immigration law.  Sarver made a compelling argument against the law, saying, “However intended, the result of passing this law is that our basic principles of equal rights and protection under the law are being called into question, and Arizona’s already struggling economy will suffer even further setbacks at a time when the state can ill-afford them.” 
  • Steve Nash, the star player for the Suns, said the Arizona law “really damages our civil liberties. I think it opens up the potential for racial profiling and racism.  It represents our state poorly in the eyes of the nation and the world.”
  • Charles Barkley, a former Suns player, and an Arizona resident and NBA commentator, got into the act, stating, “The governor, the interim governor.  I might add JD Hayworth and John McCain.  They’re the ones screwing this thing up.  I have to really take my hat off to Robert Sarver and his Suns for taking a stand.  Living in Arizona for a long time, the Hispanic community are like the fabric of the cloth.”  

Here is what leaders of the Arizona Republican Party are doing and saying:

  • Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said, “The state of Arizona is acting and doing what it feels it needs to do in light of the fact that the federal government is not fulfilling its fundamental responsibility — to secure our borders.” He also said the law would protect “people whose homes and property are being violated, drivers of cars with illegals in them that are intentionally causing accidents on the freeways.” 
  • Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said: “To the extent that the state wants to step up and deal with the challenge, we’ve said that’s a positive step.”  Meanwhile in Washington, Kyl went so far as to threaten a Republican filibuster if Democrats tried to move comprehensive immigration reform – an approach he championed in 2007 when President Bush tapped him to lead the effort in the U.S. Senate. 
  • Governor Jan Brewer, who signed the bill into law, rejected “this idea that everyone is going get arrested and that people should be afraid to come to Arizona.  I think there’s been a lot of hype.”  The same Arizona Republic article noted that her approval ratings and chances of winning a tough Republican primary had both gone up as a result of her tough talk and controversial decision.

Meanwhile, Senators Kyl, McCain and most of their colleagues have retreated behind the vacuous mantra of “border security first” – the de facto and failed U.S. strategy in dealing with illegal immigration for the past 17 years.  What makes this so hypocritical is that both know that the only way to truly secure the border is to enact comprehensive reform that combines border enforcement, a crackdown on illegal hiring, a requirement that immigrants in the U.S. illegally register and work towards citizenship, and reforms of our legal immigration system going forward. 

Unfortunately for the Republicans’ long-term political prospects, the embrace of the Arizona law will have tangible electoral consequences.  New polling released by Research 2000/Daily Kos shows that, “Latino support for GOP candidates has evaporated. McCain received 74% of Latino vote in 2004, 40% in 2008. In this latest poll, he gets only 10 percent of Latinos.”

Said Sharry: “The embrace of the Arizona law and the failure of the Republicans to step up for real reform will not be judged kindly by future historians or future voters.  Just as Proposition 187 doomed the Republican Party in the eyes of many California Latinos, SB1070 will do the same among Arizona Latinos.  And while the vast majority of all Americans are concerned about illegal immigration and want something done about it, the “something” that enjoys the broadest support is comprehensive immigration reform.”


America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.