Barr picks up Arpaio endorsement, blasts GOP immigration plan

Republican congressional hopeful Bob Barr picked up the endorsement of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Thursday and criticized a key part of the House GOP blueprint for overhauling the nation’s immigration laws.

Nicknamed “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” Arpaio is a polarizing figure because of his aggressive efforts to crack down on illegal immigration in Arizona’s Maricopa County.

The federal government filed suit against the sheriff in 2012, alleging his office discriminated against Latinos in its enforcement. A year later, a federal judge ruled in a separate suit that Arpaio’s office had singled out Hispanics.

Arpaio stood by Barr’s side at a news conference in Marietta on Thursday, just hours before the sheriff was to speak at a campaign fundraiser for the former congressman and former federal prosecutor.

“He was a great U.S. attorney, a great congressman,” Arpaio said. “That is why I am here to help him.”

A former Libertarian presidential candidate, Barr is competing in a crowded Republican primary to replace U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey in Georgia’s 11th Congressional District. Barr called Arpaio an “international spokesman for good, solid, tough law enforcement.”

“I have been kind of a lightning rod myself,” Barr said of Arpaio. “Maybe that is why I like him. I am extremely proud to have Sheriff Arpaio’s endorsement.”

Last week, House Republican leaders presented a one-page list of principles for revamping the nation’s immigration system. Barr told reporters he opposes one of the most controversial ideas on that list: granting a path to citizenship for immigrants living illegally in the U.S.

“I do not support any path to citizenship other than the legal path to citizenship, which is already there,” he said. “It is in the law.”

Barr signaled he is open to providing legal status short of citizenship for some immigrants living illegally here.

“That is something that is appropriate for the House to look at, if you couple it with appropriate background checks and security checks and certain other registration and monitoring,” he said. “That could be part of a system of modernizing our legal immigration status. That might make sense.”

Barr’s Republican opponents are also staking out positions on illegal immigration. State Rep. Ed Lindsey of Buckhead is touting how he co-sponsored a 2011 state law to crack down on illegal immigration in Georgia. Former state Sen. Barry Loudermilk of Cassville and Marietta businesswoman Tricia Pridemore said the nation should focus on securing its borders and enforcing immigration laws already on the books.