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FIRST ON FOX: Famed Arizona Sheriff And "Fast & Furious" Critic to Endorse Romney

Sheriff Paul Babeu, an Arizona lawman known nationally for his criticism of the Obama administration's handling of the "Fast and Furious" scandal, has decided to support Republican presidential aspirant Mitt Romney, and will serve as co-chair for Romney's Arizona campaign, FOX has learned.

"It is an honor to have the support of Sheriff Babeu," Romney said in a statement. "His efforts working to protect our border are critical to lowering crime, reducing illegal immigration, and stopping both drug and human trafficking. Sheriff Babeu has been a leader in the call for the federal government to secure the border. As president, I will work with leaders like Sheriff Babeu to protect our southern border, provide the required assistance from the federal government, and put an end to the magnets that cause illegal immigration."

" Securing our border is an important part of our national security - Mitt Romney understands this. He also understands that magnets like in-state tuition for illegal immigrants don't stop illegal immigration, they only make it worse." Babeu said in an apparent direct hit at Romney's GOP rival Rick Perry. " Of all the candidates, Mitt Romney has shown that he is the most committed to securing the border and I look forward to working with him to do this."

At a press conference last week in Phoenix, Babeu, who represents Pinal County, stood with fellow Arizona sheriffs and called for the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder over the " Fast & Famous" federal operation that knowingly allowed over 2,000 firearms to be used by the deadly drug cartels in a failed effort to track as they infiltrated the large drug operations.

"My deputies and officers across the southwest could face the barrel of a gun that our own government, Eric Holder and the President, put into the hands of these criminals," Babeu told FOX news in an earlier televised interview. "Whoever approved this should be criminally held to account for this."

A staunch opponent of illegal immigration and human trafficking, Babeu is going to be a chief surrogate on immigration for the Romney campaign, and expected to be a fierce critic of Perry's policies on the topic.

According to the Pinal County Sheriff's department, Babeu heads a department of 700, and was named Sheriff of the Year by the National Sheriffs' Association. Sheriff. Babeu serves as President of the Arizona Sheriffs' Association and recently retired from the Army National Guard. As an Army Major, Babeu commanded nearly 700 soldiers in the Yuma Sector and helped reduced illegal entries by 96%.

In 2010, Babeau was in Arizona Senator John McCain's "Build the Dang Fence" campaign ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0lwusMxiHc

 *FOX News Producer Jake Gibson contributed to this report.

Serafin Gomez is the Miami Bureau producer for FOX News Channel, and a contributor to FOX News Latino. He covers politics, Florida, and Latin America. Follow him on Twitter: @Finnygo.

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