Texas Tribune by Jay Root
Gov. Rick Perry, who once said he was “intrigued and open” to an amnesty program for Mexican workers in the United States illegally, is now courting the support of a famous immigration hardliner: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona.
Endorsements are often overrated as campaign tools, but an official blessing from the man who calls himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff” could help Perry overcome conservative doubts about his relatively moderate positions on the issue of illegal immigration.
During a half-hour interview with the Tribune, Arpaio made it clear that he remained open to the idea: He said he felt a kinship with Texas in general, and a fondness for Perry in particular. Arpaio said he spoke with Perry on the phone last week, and to his campaign aides before that.
Arpaio said it was clear they wanted his endorsement, but he is keeping his powder dry for now.
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Perry’s insistence that new federal immigration policies shouldn't be discussed until the border is "secure" sparks concern from the law-and-order sheriff. Arpaio is a fierce supporter of using local law enforcement to crack down on illegal immigration, helping to lead the charge for a controversial Arizona law that gives police more authority to arrest illegal immigrants. Perry opposed an Arizona-stye crackdown in Texas and says the federal government should get control of the border first, then consider legal reforms.
“When you say ‘first,’ that means that they don’t have to raid businesses. They don’t have to lock up illegals on the streets — ‘oh let’s not do that, let’s secure the border first,’" Arpaio said. “The border was never going be completely secure. You have to talk about immigration reform at the same time you’re talking about the border.”