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LIANE HANSEN, host:

And now to a Texas country music singer and his take on illegal immigration. From the Western Folklife Center, here's another installment of "What's In A Song."

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. TOM RUSSELL (Texan Country Music Singer): I'm Tom Russell. I'm a singer-songwriter that resides right now in El Paso-Juarez, right on the border there.

(Soundbite of song "Who's Going To Build Your Wall?")

Mr. RUSSELL: (Singing) I got 800 miles of open border right outside my door. There's minutemen in little pickup trucks who declared their own damn war. Now the government wants to build a barrier...

Mr. RUSSELL: This matter of the government building a barrier or a wall along the border was coming up. And for some reason, the first thing that happened in my mind was they're going to build a barrier and most of the cheap labor on the border is by illegals. Who's going to build the wall if you kick them out?

(Soundbite of song "Who's Going To Build Your Wall?")

Mr. RUSSELL: (Singing) Who's gonna build your wall, boys? Who's gonna mow your lawn? Who's gonna cook your Mexican food when your Mexican maid is gone?

Mr. RUSSELL: My first feeling was that the government was trying to deal with terrorism - a very real thing, you know, after 9/11 - by putting a lot of heat on Mexican-Americans and illegal Mexicans, which in my mind aren't the problem. But they've been made the problem all of a sudden. Mexicans here are over here doing jobs a lot of Americans won't do, and doing them very well, by the way.

(Soundbite of song "Who's Going To Build Your Wall?")

Mr. RUSSELL: (Singing) Who's gonna wash your baby's face? Who's gonna build your wall? Now I ain't got no politics, so don't lay that rap on me.

Mr. RUSSELL: The danger in the song was thinking I was taking a cheap shot at the government, which isn't where I'm at. Because I want to be honest about it, I don't have any politics one way or the other. It just doesn't interest me. I turn my gun barrels on the people I dislike, which are white developers who abuse these people and then are the first to jump on the bandwagon and say, yeah, we got to get rid of them now.

(Soundbite of song "Who's Going To Build Your Wall?")

Mr. RUSSELL: (Singing) It's the fat cat white developer, Who's created this whole damn squall. It's the pyramid scheme of dirty jobs, And who's gonna build your wall?

Mr. RUSSELL: I'm being cliche here in a way, but I've seen the same sort of person in city council just wiping out tens of thousands acres of land to put McDonalds in. And I just kind of think let's see who the heroes are, and are the Mexicans really our enemies? So it's a complex issue that I'm making, kind of, a cartoon about. But people identify with it a little.

(Soundbite of song "Who's Going To Build Your Wall?")

Mr. RUSSELL: (Singing) Who's gonna wax your floors tonight down at the local mall? Who's gonna wash your baby's face? Who's gonna build your wall? Yeah, who's gonna wash your baby's face? Who's gonna build your wall?

HANSEN: "What's In A Song" is produced by Hal Cannon and Taki Telonidis of the Western Folklife Center. To post your views on illegal immigration and what should be done about it, go to npr.org/soapbox.

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