Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio today endorsed Texas Governor Rick Perry in the Republican presidential race.
“The federal government has failed on border crime and border enforcement, and no candidate for president has done more to secure the border than Governor Rick Perry,’’ Arpaio, of Maricopa County, said in a statement. “I’m endorsing Rick Perry because we need a tough-on-crime president who will champion and fund full-time border security operations from Brownsville to San Diego.’’
Arpaio made the announcement at an Amherst, N.H., diner this morning. He will join Perry at town halls at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College this afternoon and at a Chamber of Commerce event in Derry this evening.
“Sheriff Arpaio knows the struggle border states face as Washington politicians and bureaucrats fail time and again to properly secure our nation’s southern boundary with Mexico,’’ Perry said. “I am honored to have Sheriff Arpaio’s support for my presidential campaign and our shared goals of fighting border crime with more personnel, border fencing and surveillance.’’
Arpaio relishes a reputation as “America’s toughest sheriff,’’ for doing things such as housing inmates in hot tent cities, instituting volunteer chain gangs, and dying prisoners’ clothing pink.
Numerous lawsuits have been filed against Arpaio for the conditions of his jails. A judge in 2008 found that conditions at the Maricopa County Jail threatened the health and safety of inmates. A federal appeals court judge agreed in 2010, finding Arpaio acted unconstitutionally by housing pretrial detainees in hot, overcrowded conditions and feeding them moldy food.
The US Department of Justice is investigating Arpaio for allegedly discriminating against Hispanics in his immigration sweeps and jail policies. Arpaio refused to provide the Justice Department with his records until the department sued him. Meanwhile, Maricopa County budget officials have accused the sheriff’s office of misspending around $100 million in jail funds, according to The Arizona Republic.
Arpaio has served as Maricopa County sheriff, an elected position, for 20 years.
Perry, as governor of Texas, a border state, has more experience than most of his rivals in dealing with illegal immigrants. Since 2005, Perry says Texas spent $400 million on security at the Texas-Mexico border, including sending ranger reconnaissance teams to the border. His efforts have resulted in the seizure of large amounts of drugs and illegal weapons. Perry signed legislation ensuring that only those in the country legally could obtain drivers’ licenses, and championed and signed into law a bill requiring voters to show identification at the polls. (The US Department of Justice has not yet allowed the voter ID law to go into effect, and has asked the state for more information proving that the law will not abridge a minority group’s right to vote.)
On the campaign trail, Perry has talked about the need for strategic border fencing, air surveillance, and agents on the ground. He has said deporting all illegal immigrants currently in the country is not realistic, but said he would establish a work visa program for them.
His Republican rivals have criticized him for being soft on immigration, pointing to a bill Perry signed giving children of illegal immigrants in-state tuition. The endorsement from Arpaio could put to rest any such claims.
But it could also open up criticism from those who oppose Arpaio. The Democratic student group at Saint Anselm College is protesting Arpaio’s visit. In a statement, college junior Elizabeth Kulig called the event “an outrage,’’ and said Arpaio “has debased the image of the Arizona law-enforcement.’’