Immigration Lawsuit Sends Candidates Scrambling

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Guests

Ken Rudin, political editor, NPR
E.J. Montini, columnist, Arizona Republic

The Justice Department has filed suit against Arizona's controversial immigration law. The case has candidates around the country scrambling to clarify their positions on immigration policy. Also, RNC chairman Michael Steele is taking hits after comments he made about Afghanistan.

NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.

No Senate appointment yet in West Virginia, a recess appointment to head Medicare-Medicaid in D.C., and a pointed argument over who's the true conservative in Kansas. It's Wednesday and time for a pointy-headed edition of the Political Junkie.

President RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

Former Vice President WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad. Wheres the beef?

Former Senator BARRY GOLDWATER (Republican, Arizona): Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

Former Senator LLOYD BENTSEN (Democrat, Texas): Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

President RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

Former Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska): Lipstick.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: But Im the decider.

(Soundbite of scream)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, NPR political editor Ken Rudin joins us. Another week with no primaries but secondary detonations from Michael Steele's self-inflicted wound on Afghanistan, Jim Traficant's bid to complete the revolving-door spin from Congress to prison and back falls short. Russ Feingold suddenly looks vulnerable in Wisconsin, and in West Virginia, the big question is which even-numbered November.

In a bit, we'll go to Arizona to focus on the politics of immigration. Later in the program, a new documentary on land redistribution in South Africa, but first, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A, and as usual, we begin with a trivia question.

KEN RUDIN: Hi, Neal, okay, well, we're going to talk about immigration, since we're going to talk about immigration and Arizona and the politics of immigration.

You have two chances of getting a Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt here. So there's two questions here. You can either name one or the other. Either name the last two senators who were born south of the Rio Grande or name the last senator born in Asia.

All right, we talking about immigration so if you name either the last two senators born south of the Rio Grande, one T-shirt available, but youve got to get both, or the last senator born in Asia, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Thats at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. And of course, the no-prize is a beautiful T-shirt, gorgeously designed.

And we're going to begin with the news of the day, Ken, in West Virginia, where Governor Joe Mansion said this morning he would strongly consider running in a special election to replace Senator Robert Byrd if that election is held this November.

RUDIN: Well, that's not a surprise. The no surprise is the fact that he's interested in the Senate seat. Everybody always felt that when Robert Byrd's term was coming to a close in 2012, Joe Mansion, who was term-limited as governor after two terms, would run for that seat.

He is widely popular, a very successful governor there, clearly has national ambitions. But, he said today that even though the secretary of state of West Virginia announced that the law says that an appointed successor, an appointee from Governor Mansion, could serve until 2012, there seems to be an impatience among Mansion and many Democrats saying they want an election this year. Two and a half years to serve as an appointment is too long without voter input.

CONAN: And you said among Democrats, among Republicans, too, including the likely rival for Mansion.

RUDIN: Well, except that the likely rival is - the woman always mentioned is Shelley Moore Capito, the congresswoman, the daughter of former Governor Arch Moore. Her name has always been mentioned as a potential Senate candidate. The problem, of course, one is Joe mansion is extremely popular. Two, West Virginia hasn't elected a Republican to the Senate since 1956.

So the guess here is that Shelly Moore Capito actually would run for governor in 2012, when Mansion has to leave either way. But now, it looks like that they may Mansion said he's going to wait for an opinion by his attorney general, but basically, it's very possible that there will be a special election this November for Byrd's seat.

CONAN: Okay, it's very possible that another appointment, which runs out in January, we may or may not wait for Michael Steele to leave quietly as chairman of the Republican National Committee.

This is after his remarks, again this is one of those rallies in Connecticut, a meeting where no reporters were allowed, but somebody got a recording. The quality's not good enough to play here, but nobody is disputing the quotes where he said Afghanistan is a war of Obama's choosing.

RUDIN: Yep, and also a war that the U.S. didn't want to engage in. If memory serves, I believe the war in Afghanistan began before January 20th, 2009. So I suspect that it was a war that happened during the George W. Bush administration.

The point is a lot of Republicans are very upset, one, that the spokesperson, the national Republican chairman, Michael Steele, basically saying that one, it's a political he politicized the war, and two, that it's not winnable. And this is not the argument that John McCain and Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint and all these other Republicans have been mentioning, and that's why they've been very critical of Steele.

CONAN: They've been hoping to focus on the deadline, which they say President Obama's going to start pulling the troops out next July. President Obama says a transition starts next July. But in any case, Lindsey Graham, appearing on TV, said well, Michael Steele has made a big problem.

Senator LINDSEY GRAHAM (Republican, South Carolina): This is not President Obama's war. This is America's war. The deadline of July 2011, in terms of withdrawal, has to be clarified, but I want to separate myself from that statement, and the good news is Michael Steele is backtracking so fast, he's going to be in Kabul fighting here pretty soon.

CONAN: And some people are talking maybe his replacement ought to be Sarah Palin.

RUDIN: Well, that has been mentioned. There have been some conservative blogs suggesting that her perhaps best talents would be as Republican national chair. She's very good with fundraising, and Michael Steele has been pretty abysmal in the fundraising department.

But also, a lot of Republicans are saying look, there are four months to go to the election. So as bad as a distraction as Michael Steele has been, and there have been many gaffes made by Steele over the last couple years, to replace him four months before the election may be even more of a distraction.

CONAN: Let's see if we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia questions, and there are two. Can you name the last two senators born south of the Rio Grande? Or name the last senator born in Asia, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Bob's(ph) on the line from Rochester, Minnesota.

BOB (Caller): Hi, this is Bob Sixta(ph) in Rochester, Minnesota. How are you today, Neal?

CONAN: Good today, and you're a previous winner. But go ahead, Bob.

BOB: I am, I am. Actually, I think on the south on Asia, it would be John McCain and the current senator of Hawaii. I don't want to butcher his name, but Ionowa(ph), I think.

CONAN: Inouye.

RUDIN: Well, Inouye was born in the very quaint country of Honolulu. So as a matter of fact, interesting that Daniel Inouye was born in Honolulu. So that is not the correct answer.

CONAN: All right, Bob.

BOB: Oh, and John McCain is not the other one?

RUDIN: That was not the question. The question was you've got name both.

BOB: Oh, both, okay, thank you.

CONAN: All right. Nice try, Bob. Let's next to this is Roger(ph), Roger with us from Cleveland. Roger? Roger has left us. He's going to LeBron James's house.

RUDIN: The solid majority.

David's(ph) with us from Minneapolis.

DAVID (Caller): Well, good afternoon. I had an unquenchable desire to wear one of those T-shirts, but I'm afraid I thought Inouye was from Hawaii, too. I was hoping he was from Japan.

CONAN: Japanese descent by from Hawaii.

RUDIN: Born in Honolulu, 1924.

DAVID: Thank you anyway.

CONAN: All right, thanks very much. Let's see if we can go next to this is Jody(ph), Jody with us from Jackson, Michigan.

JODY (Caller): Yeah, now, if I understand the rules correctly, I can guess on either of two questions, the two senators born south of the Rio Grande or a senator born in Asia?

CONAN: The last ones but yes, go ahead.

JODY: Okay, I'm going to take a shot at south of the Rio Grande. I was going to guess John McCain and Mel Martinez.

RUDIN: That is the correct answer.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding, Jody.

RUDIN: John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Mel Martinez, the former senator from Florida, was born in Cuba.

CONAN: So Jody, we're going to put you on hold, and we'll collect your particulars and mail you out a Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt. And you have to promise to take a digital picture of yourself to email back to us so we can post it on our Wall of Shame.

JODY: Yes, you got it.

CONAN: All right. Let me make sure I'm putting the hold button and not the drop button.

RUDIN: And the interesting part of this trivia question, which is a surprise to some people, the last senator born in Asia...

CONAN: We have an email answer to that, this from Nathan(ph), and he says Michael Bennett.

RUDIN: Michael Bennett of Colorado. His father is Doug Bennett, former president of NPR, but when Michael Bennett was working for India Ambassador Chester Bowles in 1964, Michael Bennett was born in New Delhi.

CONAN: All right, so Chester excuse me...

RUDIN: Chester Bowles.

CONAN: Chester Bowles, yes. Nathan, we have your email, and we'll get in touch with you, and again, we'll extract that promise for a digital picture of you to post on our Wall of Shame.

In the meantime, there is other political news to go on, and of course, there is a tempest in a Tea Party in Kansas, where two Republicans hope for the Senate nomination. And they're getting endorsed by different branches of the true conservative part of the Republican Party.

CONAN: This is very fascinating. What's happening, and a lot has to do with national politics in perhaps 2012, but in Kansas, which has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932, I believe, or '36, it's been a long time since a Democrat obviously, the attention is in the Republican primary.

This is the one that Sam Brownback is giving up his Senate seat to run for governor. Anyway, Todd Tiahrt and Jerry Moran are two Republican congressman, pretty much the same, very conservative, but Tiahrt has the backing of Sarah Palin and some Tea Party groups. Jerry Moran has the backing of Jim DeMint, who has become a national power, the senator from South Carolina. So it's very interesting.

CONAN: And Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, as well.

RUDIN: That's right. So it's very interesting to see how it's being divided here. But now they see each other as obviously traitors to the cause, which is kind of strange because both are very, very conservative.

CONAN: In Wisconsin, Russ Feingold, the Democrat, thought to be a shoo-in for re-election, maybe not.

RUDIN: Well, no, and a matter of fact, once Tommy Thompson, the former governor, said he wouldn't run, everybody thought that Russ Feingold wins again. But now the Tea Parties seems to be very interested in a guy named Ron Johnson, a first-time candidate, very wealthy and certainly an outsider, and a lot of polls show that Feingold may be in a tough battle.

Feingold has had a lot of problems with Democrats in the past. He stood up to the Obama administration, the Clinton administration on many issues, but now that the Republicans seem to be united behind this Ron Johnson guy, he could be in trouble.

CONAN: And in California, the field poll there shows that the race for governor in that state a dead heat.

RUDIN: Yeah, the last numbers we saw was 44 percent for Jerry Brown, the former governor, and 43 percent for Meg Whitman, the Republican nominee. And I don't know. It's probably bad news for bad candidates, because you'd think that the Democrats should have a huge lead in this one because of the six years or seven years of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Republican numbers have been down.

But having spent so much money, $80 million or more by Meg Whitman, and she's still trailing Jerry Brown, who has not spent much money at all, you wonder about her chances at all. The negatives on both candidates are very high.

CONAN: And Jerry Brown has been having trouble raising money.

RUDIN: Right.

CONAN: So the other part, she has done all that money has gone to some effect. I think it was, what, not all that long ago, her approval ratings were at 17 percent.

RUDIN: Well, not so much her approval but her recognition, her voter ID, was pretty low, and that's gotten high. But as she went through a bruising primary battle for the nomination, her negatives have gone up, as well.

CONAN: All right. We're talking with political junkie Ken Rudin, more in a minute, and we'll focus when we get back on the politics of immigration. How is it playing out in the political races where you are? Join us, 800-989-8255. Email is talk@npr.org. Of course, the epicenter is Arizona. That's where we'll focus. Stay with us. I'm Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.

It's Wednesday, and political junkie Ken Rudin is with us as always. NPR's political editor is good for so much more than just a trivia question. You can check out his blog and try to solve his ScuttleButton and download his podcast, all of those available at npr.org/junkie.

And now we turn to the politics of immigration. Arizona's tough new law forced politicians on all sides to declare a position on the issue. We'll talk about how it's playing out in the Grand Canyon State, and tell us how is the immigration issue playing out in political races where you live. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can join the conversation at our website. Thats at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

E.J. Montini has been watching politics in Arizona for a long time. He's a columnist for The Arizona Republic and joins us today from his office in Phoenix. Nice to have you TALK OF THE NATION.

Mr. E.J. MONTINI (Columnist, The Arizona Republic): Well, thanks for having me.

CONAN: And politicians scrambling to solidify their position on this issue, most recently after the decision by the U.S. Department of Justice yesterday to file suit against the state of Arizona.

Mr. MONTINI: Right. Well, what they well, that's actually been going on since the passage of SB1070, and once the politicians saw that the people in the polls were in favor of the law, they are all scrambling to show that they were even tougher on border security and immigration issues than everybody else is.

And that seems to be the basic strategy from politicians, ranging from Senator McCain, all the way down to most recently, we actually had a guy who's running for Corporation Commission, which is meant to sort of regulate the utilities, say that he would propose that we cut off the utilities of illegal immigrants here because he wants to be tough on immigration.

CONAN: Everybody wants to be tough of immigration. You mentioned, of course...

Mr. MONTINI: It's not only tough. You have to be tougher than the next guy.

CONAN: I see.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: You mentioned Senator John McCain, who was of course not all that many years ago the author of an immigration reform bill, and this was the TV ad that I gather you've all been seeing a lot of down there in Arizona, where he's walking along the border with a sheriff, as it turns out, a sheriff whose district is not along the border. But anyway, here's the ad.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona): Drug and human smuggling, home invasions, murder...

Unidentified Man: We're outmanned. Of all the illegals in America, more than half come through Arizona.

Sen. McCAIN: Have we got the right plan?

Unidentified Man: The plan's perfect. You bring troops state, county and local law enforcement together

Sen. McCAIN: And complete the dang fence.

Unidentified Man: It'll work this time. Senator, you're one of us.

CONAN: Complete the dang fence. I think thats the quote from Arizona so far this year.

Mr. MONTINI: That's pretty much the quote of the year, yes. Senator John McCain has gone from actually using the word amnesty quite comfortably a few years back, to now suggesting that we actually round them up and send them back home.

CONAN: Round them up and send them back home.

Mr. MONTINI: Pretty much. I mean, he said in a radio interview just the other day something along the lines of some of these people just have to be sent back, you know, sent back home, meaning the people who have lived here for many years. And this was completely opposite of what he was saying only a few years ago.

CONAN: And I gather that the federal court case gets heard on July 22nd.

Mr. MONTINI: Yes, that would be yeah, the attempt to get a to have a stay, an injunction issued against to keep the law from going into effect, right.

CONAN: And that, we can't presume what the federal judge is going to do, but it certainly doesn't seem to make much effect in terms of how rigorously the politicians are running on this issue.

Mr. MONTINI: No, well, the politics of this and the reality of this have nothing in common with one another, really. They don't even match in any way.

What only works is that it's great for some politicians, the fact that the law has passed. You know, Governor Jan Brewer, who was iffy in terms of, you know, she was not an elected governor. She became governor she ascended to the governor's job when Janet Napolitano left to take the Homeland Security job. And it was iffy on whether or not she had a great chance to be elected on her own until she signed this law.

And she now talks about how, you know, she would always sign this law, but the fact is, the law passed the legislature, and she took a very long time before she signed it. And my guess is that she had her finger in the wind, and all the polls were saying people really like this law. And so she gathered a bunch of people behind her and had a big support group there, and she signed the law, and her polls shot right up there, and now: I've always been for this law.

And same with Senator McCain. You know, Senator McCain was never first up for a law like this, but he now has a primary challenge against former Congressman J.D. Hayworth, whose entire political career in Congress, he was a border security guy.

That's pretty much what he he wrote a book called "Whatever It Takes" about border security, and that was sort of his cachet for the longest time. And now Senator McCain is essentially trying to out-J.D. Hayworth J.D. Hayworth, be more J.D. Hayworth than J.D. Hayworth himself, in running his campaign to get re-elected.

CONAN: You mentioned Governor Brewer. She of course went to Washington to meet with President Obama to discuss this issue, and they seemed to have an amicable meeting. But now, she's running this ad again in the state of Arizona.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

Governor JAN BREWER (Republican, Arizona): Two weeks ago, I met with President Obama. He promised that we would get word from his administration on what they were going to do to secure the border. Well, we finally got the message: these signs, these signs calling our desert an active drug and human smuggling area, these signs warning people of danger and telling them to stay away.

I'm 80 miles away from the border and only 30 miles away from Arizona's capital. This is an outrage. Washington says our border is as safe as it has ever been. Does this look safe to you?

CONAN: Despite the signs, the statistics do seem to show, E.J. Montini, that the border is indeed as safe as it's ever been.

Mr. MONTINI: Well, you know, yeah. The thing that the governor didn't say is that the crime rate and this is a funny thing. We're supposed to be a tourism state here. We recognize that. And you have the governor of your state and the senior senator are simply frightening people into believing that it's some big, scary place to live.

The fact of the matter is that crime rates in cities like Nogales, Douglas, Yuma, Arizona border towns, they have been essentially flat for about a decade. They haven't risen at all.

The three among the big cities in America with the lowest crime rates for violent crime, anyway, are in border states: San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso. They these are technically the safest cities in the country.

You know, you have the fact is the border patrol has increased. There's nearly 23,000 there now, and yeah, there is it is a dangerous there are drug corridors, drug and human smuggling corridors on the border, and yes, there is a lot that can be done to fix those things. The Arizona law, SB1070, does absolutely nothing for that. That has it has no connection to securing the border.

And so a lot of this discussion is a political discussion. It's not a practical, border security discussion. It is a practical, help-me-get-elected discussion.

CONAN: And that's what we're talking about, how is it playing out in the races where you live? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. John's(ph) on the line from Tucson.

JOHN (Caller): Hello, this is John DeKogo(ph).

CONAN: Hi, John, go ahead, please.

JOHN: In Congressional District 8, we have Gabrielle Giffords, who is an incumbent. And this is she's running for her third term, and you might call her a Blue Dog Democrat. She did vote for the health care overhaul.

She has been, for quite a while, saying that the Obama administration's not doing enough to secure the border. So she's positioned herself away from the Obama administration.

She has a pack of Republicans on her, like Jonathan Paton, several others that are they think that she's going to be easily knocked off, but I think Gabby, as some of us call her, is a lot tougher than they think, and they're in for a brawl with her.

Mr. MONTINI: Well, I think Arizona Democrats, pretty much every Arizona Democrat in the Congress, other than Raul Grijalva, who is in a fairly secure district outside of Tucson, they're all worried that this is going to hurt them in elections.

So if you there were statements issued yesterday by Harry Mitchell up here, Ann Kirkpatrick, Gabby Giffords and others, that stated essentially condemning the federal government for going after SB1070. And those are all political statements.

JOHN: That's a good point, guys. You've got to remember, though, that Arizona still has 60 percent of its population is Hispanic, and, I mean, the Republican that had the best shot at winning over Hispanic votes was John McCain. And I think he's totally blown it.

Mr. MONTINI: Well, I don't think he's really worried about that. You know, he has one election to win.

JOHN: He's not worried.

Mr. MONTINI: Yeah, he has one election to win, and then he gets to do a six-year victory lap, and I think that...

JOHN: He's also going to hurt this is also going to hurt tourism from Mexico, which is a big money item. I go to Office Depot or OfficeMax, and because Mexico still does not have the infrastructure to properly supply people with computers and such, when you're standing in line, there's a lot of people with Sonora plates loading up on PCs and networks and technical stuff.

So there are going to be some impacts after the demagoguery.

CONAN: All right John, thanks very much.

JOHN: Thank you, there.

CONAN: Thanks very much. Ken, it's interesting. He was talking we're talking about Arizona in particular, but there are other border states, as well. There is every year, I gather, a meeting of governors of all the states that border the border, from the United States and from Mexico.

These are the host rotates. It was supposed to be in Arizona this year but maybe not.

RUDIN: Well, right, exactly. First of all, the local officials in Mexico were so appalled by the Arizona law, decided to boycott the meeting in Arizona. So Jan Brewer, the governor said, okay, I'm cancelling the meeting. But other governors said, wait a second, you can't cancel the meeting. You can't do something arbitrary like that. So, Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, suggests...

CONAN: Who happens to be a Democrat.

RUDIN: Who is also not running for reelection and who is also a Hispanic, for the record, decided - said that maybe we could have this New Mexico. But E.J., I just want to ask you one quick question.

Mr. MONTINI: Sure.

RUDIN: Following what John just said, you talked about the rhetoric about the Republicans, about Brewer and McCain and Hayworth, and yet the Democrats are not distancing themselves from that kind of rhetoric too much as well.

Mr. MONTINI: Oh, no, they can afford to. You know, the law is wildly popular here, and they just have to deal with that reality. Other than those - someone like Grijalva who's, like I said, in a safer district, the others have to deal with that reality. They can - they're not going to try to make nuanced explanations of why they think the law is flawed. They're going to attack the federal government the same way that Senator McCain, who's been a member of the federal government for 30 years, is attacking the federal government.

CONAN: And before that, worked for the federal government.

Mr. MONTINI: Yeah, exactly.

CONAN: But...

Mr. MONTINI: It's so funny. You know, I heard the senator on the local radio station here today said something like, oh, if the federal government had done our job, we, in Arizona, wouldn't have had to do this. And I'm thinking, we? First of all, you didn't do it here. You weren't part of the Arizona legislation. You're a member of the federal government and you've been there for all those years and - but it's what it takes to get elected this time around. And that's what we're hearing from politicians up and - I don't think you could run for dogcatcher in Arizona and not say something about immigration. Youd have to be an anti-Chihuahua campaign or something like that in order to get elected here.

RUDIN: Although in fairness to John McCain, back in 2006, he did try to change it and the Republican Party didn't want to hear anything about it.

Mr. MONTINI: No, not all. And he says - and that's - he will tell you that that's where I learned my lesson, that it's border security first, secure the border first. The problem is that - and this, again, is a nuance, but it's true and it works out great.

Those who are most vehement about border security, none of them tell you what that means. Does that mean a reduction of 95 percent of what we're stopping coming into the border now? I mean, what's the - at what level - give me some criteria for what border security stands for. Does it mean no one gets through? If five people get through, is that not border security? If we have a little bit of drugs or no drugs - I mean, the element is, let's send all these troops down there and then once we secure the border, we can think about more comprehensive reform. Well, it's an open-ended thing now. You can always say, you know, as far as my view is concerned, the border is not yet secured. It's a wonderful political argument that allows you to never deal with immigration in large terms.

CONAN: We're talking with E.J. Montini, a long-time columnist for the Arizona Republic. Of course, Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Let's go next to Elliot(ph), Elliot with us from Boise.

ELLIOT (Caller): Hi. How are you, Neal?

CONAN: Very well, thanks.

ELLIOT: Good. Well, I just wanted to let you know that in Idaho, the immigration issue in an interesting one. The Republicans are, of course, firmly in control over the legislature in the state. But their benefactors - the big business community, of course - is opposed to immigration reform because they use that labor for ranching and farming and all that. So it's a very interesting dynamic throughout the state.

CONAN: And is it playing - are people campaigning on it?

ELLIOT: Well, the Republican Party recently had their convention, and their convention turned into, really, I think a Tea Party convention. It's theyve pretty much been taken over, the Republican Party here in Idaho. And one of the planks was, indeed, to pass one of the Arizona law here in Idaho.

CONAN: All right. Elliot, thanks very much.

ELLIOT: Thank you.

CONAN: And that will, of course, depend a lot on what the federal court says in Arizona. But, Ken?

Mr. MONTINI: Yeah.

RUDIN: Yeah. I was just thinking also, another question for E.J. Because back in 2006, when you had J.D. Hayworth losing, you had a very conservative guy running for Jim Kolbe's seat, who was defeated on his views on immigration...

Mr. MONTINI: Right.

RUDIN: ...and yet, that point of view that was dismissed in 2006 seems to be very popular with most of the state.

Mr. MONTINI: Yeah. Well, I think, you know - as you know, the economics has a lot to do with politics. And the difficulty that we had with the economy since 2006 - you know, people look for scapegoats, and among the scapegoats that we have in Arizona are illegal immigrants. You know, theyre draining our system because of whatever. You know, even though they can't get social services here, (unintelligible) - but, you know, their kids go to school here.

That's why - and they're - they come here and they have their babies. That's why no matter what happens to S.B. 1070, it's far from the end in Arizona, politically. You know, there's already plans in the state legislature here to challenge the - essentially challenge the 14th Amendment.

They're going to - there's a bill thatll be proposed this fall that'll deny citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants who are born in Arizona. There's another bill that will charge tuition for children who are - who can't prove their citizenship by way of birth certificate when they get into the public school.

Those laws also - they - the people passing those laws recognize that they're probably not going to go into effect. They're probably going to end up in court, but theyre going to be wildly popular with the voting public. And they will pursue them, I guarantee you. So the notion that S.B. 1070 and the federal government and the lawsuit and the state supreme court is going to solve or resolve this issue in anyway is just not true, just no more so than they're going to resolve it by - the last toughest law in the nation that Arizona passed was the so-called employer sanctions law, which is going before the Supreme Court this fall.

CONAN: Hmm.

Mr. MONTINI: The funny thing about that was that it got a lot of attention and it's now worked its way all the way up to the Supreme Court. And the fact of the matter is, there have been two prosecutions from that law - two.

CONAN: Two. All right. Nevertheless, it sounds like it's going to be a busy time in the federal courts there...

Mr. MONTINI: It will be. Yeah.

CONAN: ...in Arizona. E.J. Montini, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.

Mr. MONTINI: No problem.

CONAN: E.J. Montini, a long-time columnist for the Arizona Republic, joining us from his office there. And Ken, we've had more than a few emails pointing out that we mentioned south of the border. And the trivia question turns out, Hawaii is south of the border, the Rio Grande is how we put it. So that's only if you're going to look at a map.

RUDIN: It's not acceptable, sorry.

CONAN: All right. Let's go.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: A couple of things we didn't catch up with, Jim Traficant, the former United States congressman...

RUDIN: Oh, man.

CONAN: ...released from prison, hoped to be returning to Congress and presented petitions to be on the ballot to run again for - as a U.S. representative.

RUDIN: Right. We expect our members of Congress to go to prison. We don't expect our prisoners to come to Congress. Obviously, Traficant tried to run again in Ohio's 17th congressional district. He was expelled from the House in 2002, served seven years in prison, came back, wanted to run as an independent, but he needed 2,199 signatures to get on the ballot. He came up 107 signatures short. He says he will appeal but it looks like there will be no Traficant in Congress. Traficant and Trafic-won't.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: ...(unintelligible) talking about that.

CONAN: Ken Rudin, NPR's Political Junkie, he joins us every Wednesday on TALK OF THE NATION. And, again, you can go to npr.org/junkie to see his blog and solve his ScuttleButting puzzle and download his podcast. Ken, as always, thanks very much.

RUDIN: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Coming up, a new documentary looks at the ticking time bomb in South Africa over race and promised land. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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