MARTY RUSSELL: Good immigration policy starts at home – in Mexico

Maybe we should change the engraving of Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus” at the base of the Statue of Liberty from “Give me your tired, your poor …” to “Show me your papers.”
As the federal government and the state of Arizona prepare to duke it out over that state’s immigration law which takes effect this week, maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and think about the problem.
Illegal immigration is definitely a problem in this county and there’s no question that most of it stems from south of the border and that it taxes those of us who pay taxes to provide services for those who do not. But is Arizona’s solution, requiring police to check the legal status of anyone questioned for other violations whom they suspect to be illegal, the right one?
The real problem with Arizona’s law, according to opponents, is that it unfairly targets Hispanics and will lead to racial profiling by police officers. If the law was applied equally to everyone, that is if everyone who is stopped for a violation or questioning must prove citizenship, then it would make more sense.
But then, I suspect, you would get complaints from whites, blacks, Asians, etc. about police harassment.
“Sir, are you an American citizen?”
“Well, I got a Confederate flag sticker on my bumper and a picture of Jesus on my rear window. What more do you want?”
Besides, having to show your papers to the police conjures up scenes from old war movies when the Nazis would shoot you or imprison you even if you did have papers.
Others say the best solution to the problem is to complete the fence along the border and station armed guards along its length to keep out any intruders. The Chinese tried that centuries ago with something called the Great Wall which turned out to be not so great, at least not for the purpose it was intended. Adding alligators to the Rio Grande would probably be a better deterrent and nobody paints graffiti on alligators.
The solution, of course, lies in the problem itself. The reason so many come here illegally in the first place is to find work and services they can’t get south of the border. And while the current recession has, sources say, stemmed the flow from the south somewhat, that solution is a bit like cutting off your nose to spite your face. It’s not a solution I think we want to continue to pursue.
Until we start paying attention to problems in the southern part of our own side of the globe instead of everywhere else in the world, no law is going to stop the flow northward. Instead of giving billions to places like Afghanistan and Pakistan which just turn around and stab us in the back, maybe we should consider helping Mexico grow some jobs.
Right after, of course, we figure out how to do it here.

Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by e-mail at

Marty Russell

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