Image: Joe Arpaio
Ross D. Franklin  /  AP
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, in a file photo, touted Arizona's immigration law Tuesday night.
updated 7/14/2010 2:55:48 AM ET 2010-07-14T06:55:48

Arizona's "Sheriff Joe" Arpaio, known for his tough stance on illegal immigration, defended his state's new immigration-enforcement law Tuesday as he stumped for the Kansas secretary of state candidate who helped write it.

The Maricopa County sheriff told nearly 2,000 Kansas Republicans gathered at a rally in suburban Kansas City for Kansas secretary of state candidate Kris Kobach that Arizona needs the law because the federal government isn't doing its job. He said the law will allow his state to protect its residents.

"You can have all the laws on the book, but have to enforce the laws on the books," he said, adding that law enforcement in Arizona is under political pressure to look the other way when it comes to illegal immigrants.

"I want someone to say if you jump the fence, you go to jail. No one will say that," he added.

Arpaio said he was stumping for Kobach "to make sure a good guy is elected."

Kobach helped write the Arizona law directs officers to question people about their immigration status during the enforcement of other laws such as traffic stops and if there's a reasonable suspicion they're in the U.S. illegally.

"This should send a very clear message, a message that people in Washington don't seem to get," Kobach said. "Illegal means illegal."

Law challenged
The law has sparked national debate and drawn numerous legal challenges. The U.S. Justice Department recently filed a lawsuit to block the law from taking effect July 29.

If elected, Kobach has promised to seek changes to Kansas law that he believes will keep illegal immigrants from voting. Critics fear Kobach's proposals would discourage minorities from voting. His remarks Tuesday, however, focused on immigration laws and the need for enforcement and little about his own campaign.

The rally attracted members of the tea party movement, as well as representatives of other conservative Republicans on the Kansas ballot in August.

It also drew several hundred protesters, including representatives of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which is holding its convention in Kansas City. Earlier Tuesday, the civil rights organization accused tea party activists of tolerating bigotry and approved a resolution condemning racism within the political movement.

Racial profiling feared
Some of the protesters Tuesday night said the law could lead to racial profiling.

"The saying is: first the Jews, then the Mexicans, what's next?" said Maureen Salz, a retired teacher from Overland Park. "I'm Jewish. I take this very personally when we single out a segment of society."

Those attending the rally said they're concerned crime along the U.S. border with Mexico will spill further north.

Jeannette Auerbach, an Olathe teacher, said criticism about potential racial profiling is outweighed by the need to protect public safety.

"It is a shouting match back and forth and pointing of fingers," she said. "If there is a problem, what is your solution? I see (the Arizona law) as being part of the solution. A huge part of it."

Kobach, a former state Republican Party chairman, is among three Republicans and two Democrats running for secretary of state, the top elections job in Kansas. He faces Shawnee County elections commissioner Elizabeth Ensley and Salina resident J.R. Claeys in the GOP primary Aug. 3. Incumbent Secretary of State Chris Biggs is being challenged by state Sen. Chris Steineger for the Democratic nomination.

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Video: Low approval of federal suit against immigration law

  1. Closed captioning of: Low approval of federal suit against immigration law

    >>> obama's administration lawsuit is not getting high marks with the public.

    >> here to debut the new numbers is ron brown , political director for atlantic media and columnist with "the national journal ." you have interesting figures. start with the immigration lawsuit, the first looks we have had at how the public is reacting to the federal government 's lawsuit over arizona law and what does it show?

    >> weekly congressional connection poll. 45% of the public opposes the lawsuit. only 36% support it. in line with other polls that have shown basically support for the law, stark racial disparity on the poll.

    >> not surprising.

    >> on the suit. much more support of non-whites. among whites, only 31% support the suit. 50% oppose it. another cleavage along the lines of age. older the voter, the older the respondent, likely to oppose the suit and support the law. so, not a strong position for the administration overall on the decision to move ahead and kind of reflects the anxiety of governors the other day.

    >> you also poll the health care law and been a number you have been tracking throughout on this poll.

    >> yes.

    >> similar racial divide here. sort of non-whites, very supportive of the law, much more patient with it. whites, not so much.

    >> among mirror image . very similar finding as on the immigration. 35% say they're basically approve of it. 47% disapprove. among non-whites, almost two to one support. 28% don't approve. among whites, 29% approve. 55% don't.

    >> isn't that a reflection of democratic politics, democratic demographics?

    >> the non-white support certainly is a reflection of that but seeing in the white electorate is going on. they have grown increasingly skeptical anything the government does is going to benefit them. i think we are averting back to the -- only portion of the white electorate that's shown an appetite for college-educated white women . everyone else, they're all deeply skeptical right now of government. you see that in this poll. 30% or less support for the health care law among those three groups. only college white women at 40% or above.

    >> bring this to november as we were talking about it. we have turned everybody it seems in this town turned the page and focused on the campaign. this gets to the enthusiasm divide with heavy white support of republican side of the aisle. the enthusiasm gap is huge. and these, while the president's policies has support among hispanics, african-americans, young voters. none of them are enthusiastic of voting.

    >> they fall off in the mird term. especially young voters. from presidential to midterm, there's a sharp fall i can't have of young voters. midterm than presidential. and older and whiter is a tough group. white 65 and above in the poll, only 23% support the immigration suit. only 29% support the health care law so the older, whiter, electorate, the most skeptical of the obama agenda and performance and they're a group more likely to vote and play a larger role in the midterm than presidential.

    >> on the house districts and very white house district that is are in play.

    >> absolutely. i mean, there are more minority heavy districts than there used to be. democrats have a bigger cushion and enough blue collar districts for a real threat and that's where the president's program and the president's performance receives the most negative reviews.

    >> ron brown steen, thank you


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