Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, who has been called “America’s toughest sheriff,” was in Coeur d’Alene on Monday to deliver his anti-illegal-immigration message at an annual Republican fundraiser.
In the process, Arpaio, who also is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for alleged violations of inmates’ civil rights, endorsed Republican Raul Labrador, who is campaigning to unseat first-term Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick. Arpaio said he believes Labrador “will help America solve the problem of illegal immigration.”
In his 17 years as sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, Arpaio has attracted headlines for many controversial programs, including housing inmates in “tent cities,” putting them to work on chain gangs, and limiting them to two meals daily. He said his techniques have helped reduce crime and attack the problem of illegal immigration. Critics say his actions have violated inmates’ constitutional rights and have cost the county money defending lawsuits filed by inmates and their families.
The sheriff dismissed the federal investigation into his tactics as political, coming from a Democratic administration. He said he expects it to go nowhere. “I’m not concerned. We’re still doing our job,” he said.
Labrador attended a news conference held for Arpaio on Monday afternoon and said the sheriff “understands the subject of illegal immigration, and once elected, I, too, will put my energies into enforcing federal laws on immigration that the Democrat-controlled Congress has chosen to ignore.”
However, John Foster, a spokesman for Minnick, said as the election draws closer, more information will be revealed about Labrador’s “troubling record” on immigration. “The sheriff and others who are supportive of Raul will begin to question their support,” Foster said. “There will be more information about more troubling decisions.”
Earlier this month, Minnick’s campaign began running a TV commercial that attacks Labrador for his work as an immigration attorney, suggesting it means he profits from illegal immigration. The ad includes an audio clip of Labrador saying, “Now I like it, because I make a good living because of it.”
The clip was revealed to have come at the end of a speech in which Labrador said the immigration system was broken and that he works to get people to go through the “legal immigration system.”
Arpaio hammered that message as well, saying his Italian ancestors legally entered this country. Illegal immigration is unfair to the millions of people who wait years to enter the country legally, he said.
“If you have laws on the books, they should be enforced,” he said.