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Joe Arpaio: Speed Bump to Immigration Reform

05/29/2013 04:51 pm 16:51:09 | Updated Jul 29, 2013

Recently, the office of Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff" in the U.S., was found by U.S. District Court Judge Snow to have been racially profiling. As the immigration debate rages on in the Senate and is starting to be picked up by the House, this is a reminder where some of the more hard-core members of the Republican Party are, and how hard figures like Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and others will have to work within the GOP to push them towards reform.

Sheriff Arpaio is fairly plugged in thoroughly into the GOP establishment: when asked on immigration plans at the last GOP debate, Santorum said he would get out of Arpaio's way and let him do his job; Arpaio was Romney's campaign chair for his 2008 Arizona primary campaign; Arpaio was a fixture in conversations about SB 1070 (though largely because he was seen to have been embodying the worst abuses the system of laws SB 1070 put into place).

Despite the fact that he has been protested on many occasions; called "the face of racism in America" by Jorge Ramos; used convicted sex offenders in his volunteer "posses," trained by Steven Seagal, to patrol schools; forced prisoners in his jails to wear pink underwear and done other things that one may think would disqualify Arpaio from holding elected office after the civil rights movement, he is still in office. True, he barely squeaked by in his last election, however, like the Raging Bull, he can say "you didn't get me down" with a battered political face.

While Federal District Judge Snow had already stepped in to enjoin (legally prevent) Joe Arpaio from detaining people based solely on the suspicion that they were undocumented, this newest, public blow to the country's "Toughest Sheriff" comes at a time when he may not find much support: the 2012 election put the demographics into perspective, and Latinos are as important as all those news articles leading up to the election said; Reince Priebus issued his "Autopsy Report" emphasizing how the GOP needs to appeal to Latinos; Rand Paul (R-KY) has declared his love of the romance of the Latino culture and the Tea Party is cool with it; Marco Rubio, the GOP's only rising Latino star, took to every Sunday morning program imaginable and pushed the Gang of 8 plan as hard as he could; John McCain (R-AZ) no longer thinks we need to "finish the dang fence."

These are like the immigration reform version of the lyrics from "It's The End of the World" happening on prime time news, and the country most certainly does feel fine: a recent poll from ABC put support for the Gang of 8 bill at 83 percent.

While Arpaio may be left to rot by those in his party wishing to appeal to Latinos, this does not mean that he cannot grab the camera a few more times during the immigration debate and remind everyone that Arizona GOP politics, between banning Mexican-American ethnic education in public schools, has become completely crazy in an anti-Latino dimension. When he does, it will test the new coalitions being formed within the GOP that will need to distance themselves from him to capture a growing Latino constituency.