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Thursday, September 9, 2010

New sheriff in town to address GOP

NASHUA – Protesters from several immigration and civil rights advocacy groups will greet Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the subject of a federal civil rights probe, when he comes to Nashua this week to speak at a Republican fundraiser.

The New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees and the American Friends Service Committee announced plans to demonstrate outside the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Sunday, where Arpaio, the sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona, will give the keynote speech at a fundraiser for the Nashua Republican City Committee.

Arnie Alpert, a civil rights activist and state program coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, said the demonstration is meant to show opposition to Arpaio’s methods, as well as support for cultural diversity and the important role immigrants play in America.

“We’re appalled that the Nashua Republicans want this person to have this type of platform, that they would want to identify with what he stands for,” Alpert said. “It seems like some politicians are trying to fan the flames of intolerance, instead of throwing cold water on it.”

Arpaio refers to himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and is known nationally for his controversial methods to enforcing illegal immigration. Among the most controversial of his practices has been to send out deputies into neighborhoods known to house immigrants, stopping people for minor infractions such as jaywalking and requesting documents to prove they are in the country legally.

Arpaio has insisted that his deputies do not racially profile.

Di Lothrop, communications director for the NRCC, stood behind Arpaio last week after the federal government announced it had filed a lawsuit against Arpaio. The lawsuit accuses him of failing to turn over documents relating to an investigation into whether his aggressive techniques to curb illegal immigration violated civil rights law. Lothrop said Arpaio’s attendance had sparked significant interest in the event, which starts at noon at the hotel.

The counter-demonstration will run from 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Eva Castillo, head of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, said the organization obtained a permit from the city to demonstrate along Somerset Parkway.

Those in attendance will hold signs informing passers-by about the contributions of immigrants in America, as well as the unconstitutional policies Arpaio had pursued, Castillo said.

“For the Republican Party, the party that preaches high morals and values, to invite somebody that takes pride in diminishing the rights of people of color or immigrants is totally unacceptable,” said Castillo, who immigrated from Venezuela in 1976.

In a press release sent out Wednesday, Arpaio addressed the planned demonstration.

“A group of pro-illegal immigration activists announced late yesterday that they’ll be protesting the sheriff’s visit. Sheriff Arpaio welcomes differing points of view, and he celebrates the right to free speech.”

In his press release, Arpaio also hinted at a run for the presidency.

“Arpaio’s visit has fueled speculation among many of his supporters that his appearance at this luncheon with New Hampshire Republicans is a ‘testing of the waters’ for a run for the White House in 2012,” the press release says.

In addition to illegal immigration enforcement techniques, Arpaio has also raised eyebrows for making inmates wear pink underwear, using chain-gangs to pick up trash and the creation of a “tent city” at his jails.

Michael Brindley can be reached at 594-6426 or