Joe Arpaio, the controversial former sheriff from Arizona, announced this week that he will run for the U.S. Senate to help advance President Trump's agenda.
But he is breaking from the president on the future of people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
"Deport them," Arpaio told NPR Morning Edition's Rachel Martin in an interview that aired Thursday morning.
"When we come across these kids, or some are older than just kids," Arpaio said, "then deport them. You deport them back to the country they came from."
Arpaio, 85, has devoted his career to cracking down on immigrants in the U.S. illegally and has used highly controversial tactics toward that goal — sometimes in defiance of federal court orders. He instructed his deputies, for example, to detain Latino residents and ask them about their legal status. He then ignored a federal judge's order to stop.
He was convicted of criminal contempt for that in July. But Trump pardoned him.
The immigration firebrand's entrance into the Arizona race could have far-reaching consequences for the party, as Arpaio's views will likely receive an outsize megaphone. It will likely mean that immigration — and conservative hard-line views on the subject — will dominate a Republican primary in a state that is now almost a third Latino and in a country where Hispanics are gaining increasing clout politically nationally.
DACA recipients as ambassadors, like the Peace Corps?
Under President Barack Obama, after the House did not pass the comprehensive immigration bill that garnered 68 votes in the Senate, immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children were allowed to stay in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, executive order.
Trump rescinded DACA last year and is letting it expire by March. Trump's decision is now hung up in the courts, but he said this week that he wants a "bill of love" that allows the some 800,000 DACA recipients to stay. That, however, comes with conditions that Democrats don't appear ready to accept, including funding for a wall along the southern U.S. border.
Arpaio told NPR that DACA recipients should be sent back in this controversial way:
"They can do a lot of good in those countries. They have education here and help out and be good ambassadors from the United States to their country. That's just my idea."
He likened it to the Peace Corps and indicated he would be open to their returning later to the United States legally.
"Should we deport all the people in Chicago?"
But asked about the risks many could face going back to dangerous countries, places some of these DACA recipients have never been or where they don't speak the language, Arpaio pushed back.
"We have danger here, so should we deport all the people in Chicago with all the shooting and murder?" Arpaio asked. "If they want to get out and go to another country, should the other countries welcome them? I don't think they would."
He continued: "It's unfortunate there's problems in other countries, but that's ... you live in those other countries, you have to do something there whether it's through the political system in those countries to try to alleviate the problem.
"We pumped a lot of money into these foreign countries — tons of money to help their security, law enforcement, and that's OK, but you have to do it right."
"Make sure you get the right people to come into our country"
Asked whether he would close all of U.S. borders to migrants, Arpaio adamantly said no.
"Just make sure you get the right people to come into our country," he contended, noting that his parents came from Italy. "I have a personal interest in that situation."
Of course, when Arpaio's parents came from Italy, there were far fewer restrictions and immigration was most certainly not "merit-based." Italians at the turn of the century and into the mid-20th century, like people in other countries today, were escaping poverty, war and famine.
It wasn't the doctor from Milan heading to America.
A history of controversy
In the 1990s, Arpaio controversially also set up an outdoor Tent City jail in the blistering Arizona sun. It was criticized as inhumane by activists, and his successor said there was no evidence it made people less likely to commit crimes.
It began to be torn down last year and was closed in October.
Arpaio was also closely linked to the "Birther Movement," which peddled the falsehood that Obama was not born in the United States.
That's how Arpaio and Trump got to know each other.
How Arpaio's run could affect politics in Arizona and nationally
Because of his reputation, Arpaio would be a highly controversial figure running in the Republican primary. But his candidacy might cut a couple of different ways.
On the one hand, he will draw unwanted attention for the GOP nationally.
On the other, Arpaio could unwittingly help establishment Republicans' preferred candidate get the nomination. It's possible he could split the vote with another hard-line conservative, Kelli Ward, and opens an avenue for Rep. Martha McSally, who is expected to announce her candidacy Friday.
In fact, a poll paid for by a local TV station in Arizona and out Wednesday showed exactly that — McSally with 31 percent, Arpaio at 29 and Ward with 25.
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner, a senator from Colorado, declined Wednesday to explicitly rule out throwing the NRSC's support behind Arpaio if he wins the primary.
"It's too early to speculate who's going to win, who's not going to win," Gardner said on MSNBC, adding, "I think that is a conversation much further down the road."
Gardner was publicly critical and refused to support controversial Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who was accused of sexual assault by multiple women, many of whom were teenagers at the time of the alleged incidents. When it came to Arpaio, Gardner declined to take the same stance.
"It's difficult to compare what happened in Alabama to any other state," Gardner said. He seemed willing to let the primary play out instead: "Is he going to be the nominee? I can't tell that; you can't tell that; only the people of Arizona can tell that. That's why we have campaigns; that's why we have primaries and races. That's not my choice. That's not my decision to make at the senatorial committee."
Arpaio's candidacy all but guarantees that immigration will again be elevated in an election year, something that has not benefited Republicans in the past.
"Right now, that's what we need — is some leadership," Arpaio told NPR, "and get this problem solved."
It's the one issue that has galvanized and fired up the most ardent in the conservative base — and made Latinos reliable Democratic voters in the past few elections.
Immigration's potential dominance in this race could have broad potential consequences for the party in the age of Trump and as Arizona and the country continue to become more racially diverse.
This story was produced and edited for radio by Jeffrey Pierre and Arezou Rezvani.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
For more on Arpaio's chances and what the high number of departing members of Congress could mean for the Republican Party, NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro joins us now.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: All right, so Joe Arpaio served in public office for many years as sheriff, a very well-known quantity in Arizona - although not without controversy, obviously. Do we have any sense yet of what kind of shot he's got at this?
MONTANARO: Well, look, he's got high name identification in the state, means a lot of people know who he is. And that gives anybody something of a head start. Remember, this is a Republican primary. No single issue has fired up or galvanized the Republican base like immigration. And Arpaio's entrance is just going to make that issue, that hard-line talk be something that dominates. You know, just see President Trump's win for evidence of how immigration plays in a Republican primary.
On the other hand, establishment Republicans, ironically, are kind of smirking about this because they think his entry into the race could ironically help the establishment's preferred candidate because Arpaio could split the vote with another conservative in the race, Kelli Ward. And tomorrow, we're expecting Congresswoman Martha McSally, who would be the establishment's preferred candidate, to announce that she's getting in the race. A local poll out yesterday in Arizona confirms this because it's got McSally up 31-29 over Arpaio, with Ward at 25. So pretty even and could give McSally a path.
MARTIN: How much does that matter to the party?
MONTANARO: It matters, you know, what the outcome is and also what the process is in this race. You know, the National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner, the senator from Colorado, yesterday declined to say whether or not the NRSC would back Arpaio if he wins the primary. In other words, they could back him if he were in a general election - different than their stance on Roy Moore.
MONTANARO: The thing is, in Arizona, it's almost a third Latino. And across the country - you know, the country is becoming browner. And Republicans have had a very difficult time appealing to Latinos. And Arpaio's entry can only exacerbate that.
MARTIN: So we mentioned Jeff Flake, who's not running for re-election in Arizona. He's one of 31 Republicans choosing not to run again. Is that a big number?
MONTANARO: Well, the 31 Republicans in Congress is a big number because it's bigger than in any midterm for any party since 1994. And that was a huge Republican takeover year from Democrats. Now, if I were to tell you that that would be the number this early in the cycle, that might indicate a wave. And it certainly might indicate a wave, but some of the fundamentals are still on Republicans' side when it comes to how these districts are drawn, which races are up. They still do favor Republicans. And let's remember - more globally here, the economy is doing very well, and the United States is not in any kind of a hot war that is going as badly as the Iraq War did in 2006, when Democrats took over.
MARTIN: So where does this leave Democrats in 2018?
MONTANARO: Well, they certainly feel good. You know, this is coming on the heels of a couple of wins in Virginia and in Alabama. They certainly feel like they've got momentum and a couple things to hang their hat on at this point.
MARTIN: All right, Domenico Montanaro, NPR's lead political editor this morning for us. Thanks so much, Domenico.
MONTANARO: It's going to be fun. You're welcome.
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