‘Tough­est sher­iff ’ vows fed face-off over il­le­gals

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY RE­BECCA LARSEN

PHOENIX | The man who likes to call him­self “Amer­ica’s tough­est sher­iff,” Joe Ar­paio of Mari­copa County, Ariz., planned an Oct. 16 show­down with the feds.

The sher­iff an­nounced last week that he would defy the U.S. Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity by do­ing a street sweep for il­le­gal im­mi­grants one day af­ter the ex­pi­ra­tion of the agree­ment that has per­mit­ted him to con­duct such op­er­a­tions for the past three years. The sher­iff has said he ex­pects the deal not to be ex­tended, though fed­eral of­fi­cials have re­mained pub­licly non­com­mit­tal.

Deputies, and Sher­iff Ar­paio, planned to stake out an in­ter­sec­tion some­where in the Phoenix metro area to stop cars for traf­fic vi­o­la­tions — ev­ery­thing from speed­ing to bro­ken tail­lights to driv­ing while in­tox­i­cated. Both driv­ers and pas­sen­gers would be held if deputies de­ter­mined that they were il­le­gal im­mi­grants — re­gard­less of how mi­nor was the ini­tial in­frac­tion.

Sher­iff Ar­paio is charg­ing ahead be­cause he claims he has ju­ris­dic­tion un­der a 1996 fed­eral law al­low­ing po­lice to de­tain some­one briefly if that per­son could be in the coun­try il­le­gally.

“We will call Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment [ICE] to see if they will take them from us,” Sher­iff Ar­paio told The Wash­ing­ton Times. “And if they tell me to let them go, I guess I’ll have to trans­port them my­self to the bor­der [about 175 miles] and turn them over to the Bor­der Pa­trol.”

Sher­iff Ar­paio, 77 but looking 10 years younger, has been shak­ing up Mari­copa County for 17 years, and he’s not ready to quiet down: “I just got re-elected last year, but I’m go­ing to run again, and I’ve al­ready raised a lot of money. They’ll have to put up with me for an­other seven years.”

With cus­tom­ary bravado, he said he would an­nounce on his Web site the Oct. 16 sweep’s lo­ca­tion shortly be­fore it hap­pens, enough time so pro­test­ers can show up: “The same ones who are out in front of my build­ing ev­ery day call­ing me Hitler and a Nazi. I’m the poster boy for the open bor­ders crowd.”

“We’re do­ing it the day af­ter Oct. 15, in or­der to play a lit­tle game with them,” Sher­iff Ar­paio said. He said he ex­pects to use a “new se­cret weapon,” but de­clined to say what it is.

Oct. 15 is the day he ex­pected to find out whether fed­eral of­fi­cials would ap­prove his pend­ing ap­pli­ca­tion for a re­newal of the con­tract with ICE to de­tain ille- gal im­mi­grants. In the past few weeks, the sher­iff has been loudly com­plain­ing that the con­tract will no longer al­low street sweeps of the kind he planned for Oct. 16, po­ten­tially an­ger­ing fed­eral au­thor­i­ties, who still have the power not to ex­tend the agree­ment at all.

For the past three years, Sher­iff Ar­paio has been work­ing un­der what is known as a 287(g) con­tract, named for the sec­tion of a fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion-re­form law that es­tab­lished the pro­gram in 1996.

That law al­lows for part­ner­ships that per­mit lo­cal law-en­force­ment agen­cies to per­form im­mi­gra­tion func­tions tra­di­tion­ally re­served for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment — such as hold­ing all il­le­gal im­mi­grants when ar­rested and bring­ing them to jail un­til they can be turned over to ICE for de­por­ta­tion. If im­mi­grants are con­victed, they serve their time and are then de­ported. If they are ac­quit­ted or charges are dropped, they are held un­til they can be de­ported.

About 30,000 im­mi­grants were ar­rested by po­lice and deputies in cities and towns through­out Mari­copa County over the past three years and were then booked into Sher­iff Ar­paio’s jail for var­i­ous crimes. The dis­pute with im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties doesn’t con­cern those in­mates.

Oth­ers — about 300 — were but they like to say about me that I racially pro­file,” he said.

Alessan­dra Soler Meetze, di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union in Ari­zona, said Sher­iff Ar­paio goes way be­yond what ICE ap­proves.

The con­tract with ICE “in­di­cated he was to go af­ter the most danger­ous crim­i­nals, drug smug­glers, gang ac­tiv­ity, that kind of thing. In­stead he’s tar­get­ing peo­ple be­cause of race and rounds up mostly peo­ple who are

“The mayor of Phoenix went to the U.S. at­tor­ney gen­eral and it took 60 days for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to come af­ter me,” he said. A House com­mit­tee held hear­ings on Sher­iff Ar­paio. The Jus­tice Depart­ment also be­gan an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of his ac­tions against im­mi­grants, a probe with which he is re­fus­ing to co­op­er­ate. “It’s all based on what they read in The Wash­ing­ton Post and the New York Times,” he said. “It’s all in­nu­endo.”

ar­rested when Sher­iff Ar­paio raided work sites in po­lice ac­tions against em­ploy­ers who hire il­le­gals in vi­o­la­tion of a state law. Still oth­ers — about 3,400 — were picked up when Sher­iff Ar­paio ar­rested the “coy­otes” who bring il­le­gal im­mi­grants across the bor­der into Ari­zona.

But the main con­tro­versy has fo­cused on a dif­fer­ent group of 300 peo­ple — those whom Sher­iff Ar­paio has de­tained in streetlevel polic­ing. “I’m not do­ing it, here legally. He ends up ar­rest­ing mostly U.S. cit­i­zens,” she said.

The ACLU has filed a law­suit ac­cus­ing Sher­iff Ar­paio of racial pro­fil­ing and ex­pects to start dis­cov­ery mo­tions soon.

“The ACLU would like to see 287(g) com­pletely elim­i­nated,” Ms. Meetze said.

Sher­iff Ar­paio said that his re­la­tion­ship with fed­eral of­fi­cials has been fairly smooth un­til re­cently.

“Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment was happy to sign an agree­ment with me three years ago, be­cause I had the sec­ond or third largest jail in the coun­try, and I would iden­tify, book and de­tain il­le­gals un­der the agree­ment,” Sher­iff Ar­paio said. “In a way they gave us au­thor­ity to act as ICE agents. We do all the work, ar­rest them and turn them over to ICE.”

Sher­iff Ar­paio re­ceived no money un­der the fed­eral con­tract, but ICE trained 160 of his deputies on how to han­dle im­mi­grants and do pa­per­work. He was also given com­put­ers to use on the op­er­a­tion.

But things changed quickly this year.

“The mayor of Phoenix went to the U.S. at­tor­ney gen­eral and it took 60 days for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to come af­ter me,” he said.

A House com­mit­tee held hear­ings on Sher­iff Ar­paio. The Jus­tice Depart­ment also be­gan an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of his ac­tions against im­mi­grants, a probe with which he is re­fus­ing to co­op­er­ate.

“It’s all based on what they read in The Wash­ing­ton Post and the New York Times,” he said. “It’s all in­nu­endo.”

Then fed­eral of­fi­cials gave him a new ver­sion of his 287(g) con­tract in July. When he first read it, it seemed much the same as the old one, he said.

He had 90 days to agree to it, but there was one sticky is­sue. Of­fi­cials told him he could no longer do street-level en­force­ment and turn over non­crim­i­nal aliens to im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties. He went ahead and signed the con­tract, but has said he doesn’t know what will hap­pen next.

But two weeks ago, he pre­dicted that Wash­ing­ton won’t re­new the deal be­cause the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment, which over­sees ICE, is now in dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal hands.

There have been glitches when the sher­iff’s of­fice did its street en­force­ment.

“One night, deputies did a street sweep in Chan­dler and called ICE to pick up peo­ple and were told to let them go,” Sher­iff Ar­paio said.

Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano, a for­mer gov­er­nor of Ari­zona who tried then to pull fund­ing for Sher­iff Ar­paio’s anti-im­mi­gra­tion ef­forts, held a press con­fer­ence and claimed that the sher­iff’s deputies vol­un­tar­ily let the im­mi­grants go. The next day, deputies stopped six non­crim­i­nal il­le­gal im­mi­grants and this time “taped” the ICE agents de­clin­ing to pick up the in­di­vid­u­als, Sher­iff Ar­paio said.

Vir­ginia Kice, West­ern re­gional com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for ICE, said that all 66 po­lice

agen­cies par­tic­i­pat­ing in the 287(g) pro­gram na­tion­wide were given the same agree­ment with the same con­di­tions and that an an­nounce­ment would be made this month about what had hap­pened.

“Pre­vi­ously, the agree­ments were writ­ten in­di­vid­u­ally, but now they’re all be­ing stan­dard­ized,” she said. “Sher­iff Joe has been quite vo­cal about this, but we’re not dis­cussing the sit­u­a­tion un­til the out­come of the process.”

Sher­iff Ar­paio still con­tends that state law gives him the au­thor­ity to con­tinue do­ing al­most ev­ery­thing he has done be­fore. State laws re­quire him to com­bat hu­man smug­gling and em­ploy­ment of il­le­gal work­ers, he said.

The ca­reer of Joe Ar­paio be­gan with Army ser­vice in the Korean War and con­tin­ued through work for the Las Ve­gas and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., po­lice de­part­ments and as a fed­eral nar­cotics agent in Mex­ico and other lo­ca­tions.

Af­ter a 30-year ca­reer in the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, he re­tired while serv­ing as head of the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion in Ari­zona. He and his wife started a travel busi­ness.

But af­ter 10 years, he be­came rest­less and ran for Mari­copa County sher­iff in 1992, start­ing out by knock­ing out the Repub- li­can in­cum­bent in a pri­mary. From there, he took off like a roil­ing dust storm in the mid­dle of the Ari­zona storm.

One of his first head­line-pro­vok­ing ac­tions was build­ing what is now called “Tent City” to cope with over­crowd­ing in his jail.

“The old sher­iff never told me in ad­vance the jail was over­crowded, but I also knew that I was go­ing to need a lot more space for all the crim­i­nals I was go­ing to ar­rest in the fu­ture. So I got 70 Korean War tents, and I put them up next to the dump and the dog pound. Af­ter all, the jail should not be a Hil­ton,” Sher­iff Ar­paio said.

That was in Au­gust 1993, but the tent city con­cept is still in use. He’s also fa­mous for dress­ing in- mates in striped uni­forms and pink un­der­wear. He even stopped serv­ing salt and pep­per with in­mates’ meals — a move he claims has saved tax­pay­ers $20,000 a year.

Twelve years ago, he in­tro­duced chain gangs to the jail for his male in­mates; two years later, he started putting fe­male in­mates on chain gangs, too. The gangs do land­scap­ing and clean­ing along county high­ways. Two weeks ago, the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel ran a doc­u­men­tary, “Mari­copa County: Chain Gang,” that fo­cused on chain-gang mem­bers and their strug­gles.

The sher­iff drives a black Cadil­lac, not a cruiser, and car­ries no gun. Mar­ried for 52 years, Sher­iff Ar­paio has two grown chil­dren, plus grand­chil­dren. He likes to say he has “a racially mixed fam­ily.” He proudly notes that his son-in-law, Phil Boas, is on the ed­i­to­rial board of the Ari­zona Repub­lic, a news­pa­per that at­tacks him loudly and reg­u­larly.

“He has to put up a wall be­tween us when he’s at work,” Sher­iff Ar­paio said.

He doesn’t fear re­tal­i­a­tion from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

“I’m not wor­ried about a thing. I’m a fighter,” Sher­iff Ar­paio said. “I’ve been a fed­eral of­fi­cial and worked all over the world fight­ing for the United States. So now I have to take on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. They’re bul­ly­ing me and do­ing ev­ery­thing they can to tr y to in­tim­i­date lo­cal law en­force­ment.”


“We will call Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment to see if they will take [il­le­gal im­mi­grants] from us,” Mari­copa County, Ariz., Sher­iff Joe Ar­paio says.

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