Arizona's new immigration law has caught a lot of flak from critics who say it amounts to nothing more than racial profiling.
OK. They have a point. But let's not rush to judgment. It's a problem that easily can be overcome if the authorities in Arizona simply use the proper methods to determine who is an illegal immigrant and who isn't.
Sound tricky? Not at all. In fact, the precise methodology was established 35 years ago. That's when the British comedy troupe Monty Python taught us how to spot a witch in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Unfortunately, the wisdom of this method has been lost since 1975. It's time we dust off the old VHS and learn a thing or two about ferreting out the evildoers among us.
If you happened to miss the Monty Python witch-hunt or you can't find the power cable for your VCR, consider this Arizona application below (with abundant apologies to the blokes in Python; please don't sue me for copyright infringement).
Picture this. A crowd of Arizona vigilantes rustles a brown-skinned chap into the town square where they meet the police officer, a noble upholder of the law duly charged with the authority to deport any suspected illegal aliens back to their country of origin.
The suspect in question is wearing a floppy sombrero, sandals and a poncho, its back mysteriously damp. From a clandestine river crossing perhaps? But how to know?
A big black moustache pokes out from the edges of the sombrero. Yes, it seems the crowd is on to something. This poor hombre seems to fit the profile of an illegal alien perfectly.
But wait! He says he's innocent. He says he was born here. He says his parents and their parents and their parents were born here. He says his family lived in Arizona back when it was still part of Mexico.
It's up to the officer to decide. We watch as as the angry mob arrives. "Wetback!" they shout as they drag the man forward. "Wetback! Wetback!"
"I'm not a wetback! I'm not an illegal!" the suspect shouts. Is that a Mexican accent they detect?
The cop sizes him up. "OK, Juanito. If you're not an illegal, maybe you can explain to me just why you're dressed up like that."
"Hijole!" the man says, yanking off his sombrero and his soggy poncho. "They dressed me up like this. This isn't even my moustache. It's a fake!"
He rips the moustache from his face, leaving only glue marks on his upper lip.
The cop eyes the crowd suspiciously. "Well, boys, is this true?"
They look coyly at the ground, but one man at the front of the crowd confesses.
"OK, OK, I admit it. We did do the sombrero. And the moustache. But I swear to God, officer, he's an illegal, sure as I'm standing here."
"All right, pardner. How do you know this man is an illegal?"
"Easy. He mowed my lawn for $7.50 an hour. Do you think an American would do that?"
The officer looks down at his boots. "Well, you got a point. But it's not very scientific. Listen, fellers. There are ways of telling whether or not he's an illegal."
The crowd looks up in disbelief. "There are?" they say in union.
The officer nods. "Sure as shootin.' For instance, tell me boys, what do you do with illegals?"
"Deport them!" one man shouts! "Make them clean your bathroom!" another says. "Hire them to build a house!" shouts a third.
The officer smiles and nods. They're catching on.
"And what else do you use to build houses?" he asks.
"Hammers!" shouts the crowd. "Nails! Wood!"
"Wood!" the officer agrees. "Yessirree. Now, boys, tell me this. Does wood sink when you put it in water?"
The crowd thinks for a moment. "No, " they say. "It floats!"
"Right you are. And what else floats in water?"
The answers vary. "Ducks," says one. "Very small pebbles," says another. "A blowup sex toy," says a third.
The officer keeps stringing them out until he gets the answer he's looking for.
"A tortilla," one man finally blurts out.
"Now you're talking," the officer says. "You catchin' on now?"
The crowd looks bewildered, but realization gradually dawns in one man's eyes.
"So ..." he says. "... If this feller here weighs the same as a tortilla ... that must mean he's made of wood."
The officer nods. "And therefore?"
"Illegal! Illegal! Illegal!"
There you go, Arizona. It's not so hard to find an illegal immigrant after all. Just ask John Cleese and the boys.
Write to David Frey via his website, www.davidfrey.me.