I was sitting at the bar at the Dew Drop Inn, knocking back my usual end-of-a-hard-working-day glass of Old Bootstrap, when a familiar figure sat down next to me.

“Howdy,” she said. “It’s been a while since I saw Dick Richards, my favorite P.I. How’s the new secretary working out?”

Fine, governor, I said. She’s doing OK now that she understands she has to tell clients that my professional motto, “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Blank Check, No Service” means exactly what it says. So, how are things in Arizona these days?

“Things couldn’t be better now that Eric Holder has stepped into our trap and sued us over our new immigration law,” she replied.

Most people wouldn’t be all that happy about being sued by the U.S. attorney general. Doesn’t it make you want to rethink your state’s actions on controlling illegal immigration?

“No, we know we’re doing the right thing, and we know the people are behind us — in fact, not only Arizonans but most Americans as well.”

OK, I know a Rasmussen poll this week said that voters nationwide opposed the Justice Department’s suit by a 2-1 margin. Sixty-one percent, in fact, favor passage of a law like Arizona’s, and that’s up six points from two months ago.

Not only that, 86 percent of all likely voters say the immigration issue is at least somewhat important to how they will vote for Congress this November, and 55 percent say it is very important to them. And 72 percent of that group are opposed to the suit. That’s pretty strong support, but surely you don’t think the country can deport all the estimated 12 million people who are here illegally?

“We don’t have to. Once we start enforcing the law, lots of people will go home on their own — in fact, that process has already started and the law hasn’t even taken effect yet.”

You may be right, but you’re the one being sued.

“True, but understand why. It’s not because anything in our law is contrary to federal statutes, because our law just duplicates the U.S. code. We’re being sued on the grounds that we are doing something reserved to federal authorities alone, even when the feds aren’t doing it. And they’re saying that when the law takes effect, it will overwhelm immigration agencies with more work than they can handle.”

You mean, the feds are saying you have to be prevented from doing the job that they won’t do? And they think that it’s a crime to enforce federal law?

“That’s a rather evocative way to put it, but yes. And there’s another very serious point: They’re saying that our law could lead to ‘racial profiling,’ even though the law specifically prohibits it and the police can’t even ask about status unless they have reason to believe another offense has been committed. Those are the same powers that federal agents have in the same circumstances, so how come they aren’t suspected of profiling?”

Sounds like a double standard, for sure. How do you defend against that?

“For one thing, there are lots of other federal laws that states help enforce. For another, the state of Rhode Island has its state troopers checking legal status during such things as traffic stops, and referring suspected illegals to federal agencies. How come the Justice Department hasn’t moved against Rhode Island? That makes it pretty clear this is a political suit, not a matter of legal principle.”

Along that line, your critics, some of them from within your own party, say that strict enforcement of immigration laws will hurt Republicans with Hispanic voters, and there are polls that show that. People point to California passing Proposition 187 to restrict illegal immigration and then Republicans losing a bunch of elections there afterward.

“That seems to be pretty much what the Democrats are counting on, but we’re not so sure they’re right. Things have changed since then. The Mexican drug wars are starting to spill across our borders, and Americans most certainly don’t want to see that happen.

“And illegals take jobs from all legal residents and citizens, including those of Hispanic descent, remember? Despite our opponents calling us ‘anti-immigrant,’ we don’t object to legal immigration in the slightest. We’re happy to welcome Latinos who want to work here legally, move here as permanent residents and become citizens by legal means. And if people have a good reason to fear persecution in their own countries, we should provide refugee status for them.

“But if the law means anything at all, it means that those who ignore it put many things at risk — including creating vast disrespect for the law, increasing crime rates and making themselves vulnerable to exploitation by predators.”

That leads some of their defenders to say people here illegally will be reluctant to report crimes if they make themselves subject to scrutiny by doing so.

“I understand the argument, but at bottom it says that we should ignore one offense in order to be able to solve another one. How would you respond to a guy who had his illegal gambling winnings stolen who told you he shouldn’t have to say where he got the money if he reported the theft to police?”

So, why did you call the federal suit a trap?

“Because it shows beyond any doubt that the administration has absolutely no intent to enforce this law or let anyone else do it. That will hurt them far more than it hurts us.”

In soccer terms, it’s kicking the ball into your own net.

“An ‘own goal?’ Exactly!”

M.D. Harmon is an editorial writer. He can be contacted at 791-6482 or at:

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