Even before Sarah Palin's Wednesday trip to Rosemont, the girls basketball team from suburban Highland Park High School was making headlines after school officials canceled their trip to an Arizona tournament over the state's new immigration law. Now, Palin is on a personal mission to get the team to Arizona--and the school is facing serious criticism from pundits and parents.
Coming off its best season in 26 years, the Highland Park team was scheduled to play a December tournament in Arizona, but District 113 Assistant Superintendent Suzan Hebson decided to pull the team from the competition due to Arizona's new immigration law--which requires those suspected of being illegal immigrants to show their papers to authorities.
"We would want to ensure that all of our students had the opportunity to be included and be safe and be able to enjoy the experience," Hebson told the Chicago Tribune. "We wouldn't necessarily be able to guarantee that."
Asked if there are undocumented players on the team, or if anyone associated with the team is in the country illegally, Hebson said she did not know.
During a speech in suburban Rosemont, Palin addressed the Highland Park issue.
"Them are fightin' words when you say a girl can't play in the basketball tournament ... for political reasons ... so we're going to see about that," Palin said, adding "Wait, I thought it was already a crime for an illegal alien [to be here]."
And she didn't stop there. She also called on conservatives to help raise money to get the team to Arizona, and joined conservative radio host Amy Jacobson to create a Facebook page for the team. Jacobson spoke to Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed about her new mission:
"Sarah [Palin] and I bonded in the Green Room over basketball," said Jacobson, who feels cancellation of the basketball trip is "a horrific, monstrous joke using children for political pawns. It should be a parental decision, not a school decision."
Meanwhile, Highland Park officials are standing by their decision. Hesbon issued a statement Thursday saying that the school district is responsible for ensuring the safety of students--legal or not--and that the team for the 2010-2011 winter season has not been selected, therefore they cannot guarantee everyone on the team will be a legal citizen.