TORONTO, May 5 /CNW/ - International condemnation of a radical new anti-immigration law in Arizona is growing, as Canadian basketball star Steve Nash took a break from the NBA play-offs to condemn the legislation.
The Phoenix Suns player who lit the torch for Canada at the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Vancouver joined civil rights groups and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in calling for a repeal of the legislation.
"I think the law is very misguided. I think it's, unfortunately, to the detriment of our society and our civil liberties. I think it's very important for us to stand up for things we believe in," said the athlete from Victoria, British Columbia.
The law will allow police to stop and search anyone they suspect might be of foreign descent and in the US without documents. This means anyone in the state must be ready to prove, at any time, their identity and their legal status or face detention.
The law has already prompted the arrests of American-born Latinos in Arizona who have been stopped by police when they happened not to be carrying their citizenship documents, according to SEIU, the fastest growing and most diverse union in Canada with 2.2-million members across North America.
Opposition has spread quickly to the sports world after members of SEIU began organizing symbolic protests at away-games of the Arizona Diamondbacks, a major league baseball team whose owner is a vocal supporter of the state governor.
Symbolic protests are expected when the Arizona Diamondbacks visit Toronto to play the Blue Jays this season.
"When Canadian teams travel to Arizona, players will face arbitrary search and detention. I love baseball, but it is important for the world to let Arizona know we are watching," said Philip Conlon, an activist with SEIU.
On Wednesday night, the Phoenix Suns basketball team wore special jerseys emblazoned with the words "Los Suns" for the play-off game to show their pride in the state's Latino heritage.
"As a team and as an organization, we have a lot of love and support for all of our fans. The league is very multicultural. We have players from all over the world, and our Latino community here is very strong and important to us," said Nash, the guard for the Suns.
Nash moved to Canada when he was a 1-year-old from South Africa, at a time when the country was still governed by apartheid.
The new Arizona law has been criticized for bearing a close resemblance to the "passbook law" used in South Africa under the apartheid regime.
"One of the most intrusive features of the apartheid laws was the requirement for all people of colour to carry a passbook at all times. Not having a pass book was considered a crime," said Mr Conlon.
SEIU represents many new immigrants in cities across Canada who work in service sector jobs like office cleaning and care giving.
SOURCE SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION CANADA
For further information: For further information: Pat Chastang, Media Relations, SEIU Canada, (416) 709-0501