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Sheriff Joe Undeterred By Rally Roadblocks

Sheriff Joe Undeterred By Rally Roadblocks

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks at a news conference in Phoenix on Tuesday, July 6, 2010 regarding the U.S. Justice Department suing the state of Arizona over immigration law SB 1070. [AP]

Associated Press

July 09, 2010

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) A Kansas politician on Thursday had to move a planned rally with an Arizona sheriff who’s nationally known for cracking down on illegal immigration because a Kansas City-area college withdrew its permission to use one of its buildings.

But Kris Kobach, a law professor and Republican candidate for secretary of state, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, of Maricopa County, Ariz., remained undeterred by criticism of the event still scheduled for Tuesday evening.

Arpaio is best known for crime and immigration sweeps that have included raids on workplaces. Kobach helped write a new Arizona law directing officers enforcing other laws to question people about their immigration status if there’s a reasonable suspicion they’re in the U.S. illegally.

Kobach planned to have his rally and fundraiser with Arpaio at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe but moved it to the Ritz Charles convention center in Overland Park. The University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor said interest in the rally might have forced a move anyway, noting the new site is larger.

Immigrant-rights groups and attorneys pushed the university to withdraw its permission. They and Kobach said college President Edwin Robinson did so Wednesday, about two weeks after Kobach initially reserved space there.

“It worked out fine, because the popular response to Sheriff Joe coming to town is so significant and so positive,” Kobach said. “We were already worried that the college venue was going to be too small.”

A college official did not return a telephone message, but both Kobach and his critics agreed the university withdrew its permission because of safety concerns, given the controversy surrounding immigration issues.

“He’s using Sheriff Joe as a money-maker and to stir up fear of immigrants and the hatred,” said Angela Ferguson, a Kansas City, Mo., attorney and immigrant rights advocate.

Ferguson said she and other advocates plan to protest the Kobach-Arpaio event, making it “an educational opportunity” to counter “smears” about immigrants.

Arpaio said he encounters daily protests outside his offices in Arizona and frequent demonstrations at speeches and other events. Critics say his policies are racist, but he’s long said he’s simply enforcing existing laws.

“This is nothing new to me,” he said of the controversy. “I’ve never been scared away.”

Kobach, who once worked as an adviser to former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, has become a legal consultant for city officials and state legislators wanting to crack down on illegal immigration.

Kobach is a former Kansas Republican Party chairman and one of three GOP and two Democratic candidates for secretary of state, the top elections job in Kansas. Kobach has promised to seek changes he says will keep illegal immigrants from voting, but critics fear they would discourage minorities from voting.

Kobach said admission to his rally with Arpaio will be free, but he’ll take donations. Kobach’s Facebook page also said that for $250 each, supporters could meet Arpaio, have a photo taken with him and become one of “Sheriff Joe’s Deputies.”

In the past, Kobach has trained Arpaio’s deputies. In explaining the visit, Arpaio said, “The major reason is to help him.”

Kobach said while he’s concerned about safety, he doesn’t think there would have been any problems at the college. He suggested his critics tried to intimidate the college.

“What are they afraid of?” he said. “If they want to hold their own rally, by all means, do so.”

But Ferguson said the event would have been inconsistent with stances taken on immigration by the Nazarene church, which in 2006 endorsed comprehensive federal reforms, and Biblical admonitions to welcome strangers.

“It really goes against their religious teachings,” she said.

Kobach who countered that the New Testament directs Christians to obey civil laws said Robinson raised no such concerns with him.

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