A Chicago public schools official has apologized after an analytical writing exercise on immigration included a fictional extremist who bears an uncanny resemblance to Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The question has been scrubbed from databases after appearing on recent performance tests given to seventh-graders, Fox News reports.
It's all just a coincidence and a giant misunderstanding, insists Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.
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That seems a little hard to believe, critics say, especially considering the character in question is named "Arie Payo," with similar pronunciation to Sheriff Joe's last name.
"Sounds like my name," Arpaio told Fox News. "Why didn't they have the guts to use my real name? If it is supposed to be me, why didn't they just use my name?"
"If they want the real Joe Arpaio, they can give me a call," advised the Maricopa County lawman, who's been elected sheriff six times despite his tough talk and often-adversarial stance on illegal immigration. "I'd be glad to talk to the kids."
Bob Dane, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, told Fox: "They either had him in mind, or it's the world's greatest coincidence."
Among the lines espoused by the "Arie Payo" character — who is fictionally described as a conservative commentator and onetime aide to former President Bush — are these:
- "I think it's best to keep America for Americans and those who know how to speak English properly."
- "Save America for those of us who know how to behave in law-abiding ways."
- Immigrants here illegally should "go back to where they came from."
Arpaio suggested that Chicago educators were simplifying a major issue and doing a disservice to the students.
"It's such a complex issue that even the president doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to immigration," he told Fox. "So what's this question about? Is it politics? Is it propaganda? I don't know, but there's so many other good programs to talk about with the kids. This is interesting."
Dane agreed: "It's an incendiary and politically charged way to frame a question about a subject that students should consider in a balanced way with a historical perspective."
But, according to Fox, Byrd-Bennett said in a statement: "This specific exercise was intended for students to evaluate the authority and point of view of sources."
Aspects of the national debate have been playing out in Maricopa County, where the Mexican
immigrant population is high.
A year ago, U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow found Arpaio guilty of violating the constitutional rights of American Latinos through a systematic racial profiling policy that gave officers license to pull over motorists suspected of being in the United States without authority. Arpaio is appealing.
Arpaio, 81, was considering a run for governor to replace the term-limited Jan Brewer, 69. Last week, he decided against it and said he would continue the campaign he launched in March for a seventh term as sheriff
In a Newsmax TV interview earlier this year, he said this would be his last attempt for the governor's chair — there have been five altogether. He said he raised $3.5 million from supporters who wanted him to succeed Brewer.
"If I'm ever going to do it, I should do it now," Arpaio said. "I don't want to wait until I'm 86 years old."
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