An Arizona sheriff 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.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio told the 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."
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.
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.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.