Democrats are hotter than a Central Valley summer because the man once called "America's sheriff" is apparently coming to California.
Joe Arpaio has been invited by the Fresno County Republican Party to be its keynote speaker at a Sept. 29 event it calls the Second Amendment Barbecue. The former Maricopa County, Arizona, lawman was pardoned by President Trump last month after he was convicted by a federal judge for criminal contempt. Arpaio's deputies continued to single out Latinos for possible immigration enforcement despite a court order seeking to block the profiling.
He's also had a history of draconian law enforcement, including housing inmates outdoors in 120-degree heat, having jailed male suspects wear pink, sending a deputy to Hawaii to search for President Obama's birth certificate, and raiding the home of a newspaper publisher critical of the former top cop.
He's widely reviled among Latinos for his anti-immigrant discrimination. And California is a state where Latinos compose the largest ethnic or racial demographic. Even some Republicans are staying home for this one.
The presence of someone often viewed as vehemently anti-Latino is particularly stinging at a time when Democratic political leaders and state attorneys general are trying to patch together a defense for so-called Dreamers who could face deportation under Trump's phaseout of President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.
A group called Fresno Resistance was planning a "Smash White Supremacy" protest outside the late-September GOP fundraiser 220 miles north of L.A. The organization is urging its supporters to "demand" that the Fresno County Republican Party "uninvite racist, white supremacist Joe Arpaio."
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The California Democratic Party calls Arpaio a racist and suggested action might be taken to send a message that he's not welcome in the Golden State.
"We’re not at all surprised that Fresno Republicans would be so happy to pal around with an avowed racist and convicted criminal who ran a cruel and abusive jail in the Arizona desert, where prisoners were humiliated and treated as subhuman," CDP spokesman John Vigna said via email. "Joe Arpaio is a disgrace and an embarrassment to our country. Democrats and our brothers and sisters in labor are working closely together to determine the best way to peacefully make clear that this racist, hateful lawbreaker doesn’t speak for the overwhelming majority of Californians."
The national party also opened up on the Fresno GOP.
"It is shameful that the Fresno County Republican Party is fundraising off one of the nation’s most notorious agents of racism and bigotry," Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement. "Joe Arpaio is someone who used racial profiling to tear apart immigrant families and devastate Latino communities. His actions should be condemned, not celebrated. That’s why the voters of Arizona kicked him out of office in November, and that’s why I sued him when I led the Justice Department’s civil rights division. President Trump and the Republican Party may not believe justice is blind, but the American people still do and they want to see Arpaio held accountable, not pardoned for his prejudice and paraded around at a fundraiser."