RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Donald Trump holds a rally in Arizona tomorrow, one of the states at the center of the immigration debate. It holds its first presidential primary next Tuesday, and Trump has a key endorsement there in Arizona. The famous anti-immigration sheriff Joe Arpaio. NPR's Kirk Siegler reports.
KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: You can make the case that the intense anger over illegal immigration that Donald Trump is trying to tap got its start here in the border state of Arizona. Pay a visit to the shiny, modern fifth floor of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department, and you'll see why.
JOE ARPAIO: America's toughest sheriff - you see it there?
SIEGLER: Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office walls are adorned with old press clips from anti-immigration rallies, plaques from his time as a DEA agent in Mexico. The TV monitor even shows who's tweeting at him.
ARPAIO: Oh, a racist - oh, thanks for the compliment.
SIEGLER: The popular and polarizing 83-year-old Arpaio, who jokes frequently, presides over an office that a federal judge found to be racially profiling Latinos. He's never been one to shy away from controversy or the cameras, and he sees a little of himself in Donald Trump.
ARPAIO: I just had a gut feeling that he was different and my type of guy. We kind of do the parallel if you look at him and me.
SIEGLER: Arpaio and Trump share an affinity for tough talk on immigration. And if he's nominated and elected president, Arpaio says Trump, too, will turn that talk into action. He says that's what sets the billionaire apart from Republicans before him.
ARPAIO: When you have somebody that makes promises to millions of people to do something, I think the personality alone will make you do it.
SIEGLER: The main thing so far in immigration for Trump is a promise to build a wall along the border and have Mexico pay for it. Arpaio dismisses critics who say that's not plausible or feasible.
ARPAIO: I think Mexico will pay for it. If not, I've been going public - take away their foreign aid, then they'll pay for it.
SIEGLER: Even though Arpaio's views on illegal immigration are often seen as outside the mainstream in Arizona, his endorsements are still sought by most Republicans running for office. Though apart from the state treasurer and former Gov. Jan Brewer, Donald Trump has gotten little public support so far from the state's establishment Republicans.
STEVE VOELLER: I don't think it's a good thing.
SIEGLER: Steve Voeller is the former chief of staff for Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and is now a GOP strategist.
VOELLER: Particularly the way that Donald Trump talks about immigrants, he's insulted Muslims, he's insulted Hispanics, he's insulted all kinds of groups of people.
SIEGLER: Voeller says Trump's incendiary rhetoric, especially when it comes to a wall, won't play well in the general election here if he becomes the party's nominee. In fact, he thinks it could backfire and put a lot of Republicans in trouble, including John McCain.
VOELLER: If you're a politician who's up this cycle in 2016, like Sen. McCain is, you just don't know really what to expect.
SIEGLER: And that might explain why some of the state's most prominent conservative donors, including the owners of the Arizona Diamondbacks, are fundraising against Trump, and the last time Trump came to town, the mayor of Phoenix scorned his, quote, "hateful message of division and intolerance."
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Stand with us. Down with Trump. Stand with us.
SIEGLER: And yesterday, Latino activists led by Tomas Robles marched to the front doors of Gov. Doug Ducey's office demanding the Republican to publicly denounce Trump.
TOMAS ROBLES: Is Gov. Ducey really wanting to put himself in the same light as Donald Trump? Do you all want that type of hate and rhetoric circulating around Arizona again?
SIEGLER: An aide for the governor who has not officially endorsed Trump promised to deliver the message. Many Latinos here will tell you they were nervous about Trump returning and appearing alongside Sheriff Arpaio who led Arizona's immigration crackdown over the last several years. Tomorrow's rally will be held in Fountain Hills, where Arpaio lives. Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Phoenix.
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