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New immigration law allows police to detain anyone on mere suspicion of having sneaked across the Mexican border.
We would do better to understand the problems we are trying to solve. For starters, we ought to consider the human realities. Broad stereotypes are as unhelpful as they are ignorant.
“Mexicans,” no one should be surprised to learn, include a whole lot of hard-working, law-abiding folks with family values who hate drugs and crime. Some, fabulously rich, could put gringos to work. Plenty of others can enrich America’s intellectual capital.
But if some are drawn north by choice, illegal immigration is far more of a push than a pull.
In part because of U.S. policies, Mexico has lost much of its arable land. Young people, less rooted in old traditions, want a better life than near slavery in a border manufacturing plant.
For many, those harrowing trips across the border are acts of desperation to feed hungry families. Sensibly designed aid programs would allow them to stay home, earn incomes and buy American exports.
Drug trafficking is a separate issue, and hapless Mexicans along the border suffer from it more than Americans. Decriminalizing the small stuff would free lawmen to go after gang leaders at the top.
As policy debates rage on, we might stop to reflect on what is at risk. As anyone with Arizona bloodlines can tell you, it is a lot.
I only got here when I was 3. My father, who escaped Bolshevik Russia and went to Wisconsin, discovered Tucson in 1946. He ran El Tampico Bar in the heart of the old town, a cluster of Mexican barrios.
Arizona was sun-baked and laid back, a land of gorgeous gorges, Indian lore and green corn tamales. In Tucson, the people who wore guns could mostly shoot straight.
In the 1970s, developers tore down the mud wall and the Spanish-style plaza of the oldest continually settled city in North America. Water wasters dried up the Santa Cruz River, killing the cottonwoods.
By then I was living in Paris, in awe at how careful planning could add in so much of modern times and so many different cultures yet still preserve the soul of a 2,000-year-old city.
Until only recently, French friends sought my advice on travel to Arizona. For them, “Weet Ehrp,” the legendary Tombstone marshal, ranked up there with Asterix le Gaulois as a folklore hero.
These days, the Arizona lawman they picture is a swaggering bully in Maricopa County, a sheriff who crows that the new immigration law will allow him freedom to get serious. And not many plan to visit.