Pardon me? Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will make an appearance in Yorba Linda next week for a rally in support Philip Liberatore’s no chance in hell 39th district congressional bid. Arpaio, running a sagging senatorial campaign himself in Arizona, endorsed his pal before when Liberatore unsuccessfully tried to unseat Republican congressman Greg Miller in 2010. This time, Liberatore, an accountant and ordained minister, is hoping to have better luck in the mad dash left in the wake of representative Ed Royce’s retirement announcement.
The “Rally for Liberty” is happening next Friday afternoon at the Yorba Linda Community Center. Liberatore is running on an explicitly pro-Trump platform. “I will put America First by fighting to build the border wall NOW, and end sanctuary cities,” he states on his campaign website. “Further, I believe we must prosecute those elected officials who willfully work against our immigration laws. I strongly oppose amnesty for illegal aliens, and I will ensure that ICE works hand-in-hand with local law enforcement.”
Speaking of prosecution of elected officials, Arpaio awaited sentencing last summer after being found guilty of criminal contempt for defying a court order and continuing to racially profile Latinos in Arizona while still sheriff. President Trump stepped in and gave Arpaio a controversial presidential pardon. Once self-described as the “Toughest Sheriff in America,” Arpaio came to Orange County in 2010 where he made an appearance in support of failed OC Sheriff candidate Bill Hunt at Original Mike’s in Santa Ana, one met by protests. Liberatore, the only person with a bigger man-crush on Arpaio than Hunt, brought the sheriff back the following year for an appearance at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda.
But Arpaio’s return this time is different. With Yorba Linda council members teaming with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group, in joining Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ lawsuit against California over its “sanctuary state” laws, the “land of gracious living” seems to be jockeying for the “Know Nothing Capital of OC” distinction. But not all Yorba Linda residents are pleased by recent developments. Formed a year ago, Yorba Linda United has challenged the council’s actions and is none too pleased with next week’s rally.
“When we learned that congressional candidate Libertore had invited Joe Arpaio to a function at the city general fund-subsidized community center, we reached out to the center director and manager,” says Karen Lawson, a Yorba Linda United member. “As community members, we oppose decisions and actions that condone divisive messaging and invite conflict. Our understanding is that the community center has discretion policy that would support reconsideration of the Arpaio appearance based on the fact the appearance will result in disruption of other activities at the community center.”
If the show goes on, an anti-Arpaio protest will be held outside the event.
Arpaio is set to arrive in Yorba Linda as the extent of the city’s outreach efforts in support of the Sessions suit becomes more known. Mayor Gene Hernandez freely admitted to conversing with Susan Tully, FAIR’s longtime national field director, when she solicited support from Yorba Linda council members for the Immigration Reform Law Institute’s brief backing the Sessions suit. (Hernandez and Tully knew each other during the early 90’s in Orange when he was with the police department and she worked in code enforcement). Tully’s standard script acknowledged that the group sought cities and counties to join in the effort. Documents newly obtained by the Weekly show that Hernandez and councilwoman Tara Campbell ran the ground game for FAIR in reaching out to the Orange County board of supervisors.
A day before the Mar. 27 board of supervisors meeting where the Sessions suit came up for discussion, Hernandez and Campbell signed a joint letter asking the county to follow their lead. “The City of Yorba Linda (“City”) is concerned about the State of California’s recent adoption of “Sanctuary State” laws pertaining to illegal immigration,” the letter stated. “Since Yorba Linda contracts with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (“OCSD”) for law enforcement services, the city relies on the County and OCSD to help ensure the safety and security of our community. We believe that California’s Sanctuary State laws severely jeopardize the safety of our City.”
The letter offered contact information for Sarah Rehberg, the Immigration Reform Law Institute’s staff counsel and director of legislative and regulatory affairs. The Institute serves as FAIR’s legal arm and Yorba Linda’s council members gave supervisors an Apr. 6 deadline to join their brief in support of the Sessions suit. But supervisors ultimately opted to support the Sessions suit as plaintiffs. When the amicus brief was filed on Apr. 6, only Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo and Mission Viejo joined Yorba Linda as OC cities in support, but certainly not for a lack of effort.
Yorba Linda’s current anti-immigrant milieu comes full circle with Arpaio, no stranger to the Institute himself, visiting next week. Kris Kobach, a former attorney with the Institute, drafted Arizona’s notorious SB 1070 law in 2010, the same year Arpaio hired him to train his deputies in immigration enforcement. Call it six degrees of separation for those who seek to separate undocumented families.