MS Gulf Coast doesn’t share in Arizona’s problems

Published 5:33 pm Thursday, September 9, 2010

Perhaps because the Coast has always been home to the most diverse population in Mississippi, the influx of people who speak or eat or dress a little differently is taken as just one more ingredient in our vibrant society. And so it is with the Hispanics among us.

Or at least it should be.

But there is a disturbing suggestion being tossed around that the Mississippi Legislature should emulate lawmakers in Arizona and wade into a distinctly federal jurisdiction: immigration.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

While we do not doubt that many of the newly arrived immigrants among us came here without going through the legal process, Mississippi is hardly confronting the same situation as states along the border with Mexico. In fact, to get here, immigrants had to pass through or stop short of much more lucrative locales, because Lord knows Mississippi offers fewer subsidies than most states.

On the Coast, we have seen a great number of new faces because after Hurricane Katrina there was work here for anyone willing to do it.

The new arrivals roofed, cleared debris and were instrumental in speeding up the pace of our recovery. Many made homes here.

Now, as the work has slowed and some tax-paying workers and contractors struggle to compete with under-the-radar workers who can undercut their bids, the welcome mat is being yanked back.

Unfortunately, many people assume that every Hispanic face they see is here illegally, and that’s not true.

We already have laws that prohibit employers from choosing an illegal vs. a legal resident simply because they can pay them less, off the books, and not pay Social Security and other taxes. What we need is those laws enforced.

To try to reduce the number of illegal immigrants tempting employers, the Obama administration is sending additional National Guard members to patrol the Mexican-American border. It is there, in the Southwest, not here in the Southeast that more action is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigration.

As Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., recently put it while visiting the Sun Herald, “We don’t have the crisis Arizona has.”

Nor are we likely to.