Joe Arpaio

Former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona | Former 2020 Candidate for Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona

The political fortunes of Joe Arpaio and Donald Trump have been linked since 2016, when Arpaio, who had at that time served as sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County since 1993, regularly appeared on the campaign trail with Trump. Arpaio’s national profile as “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and what critics call a draconian approach to immigration enforcement helped burnish Trump’s image as an immigration hawk.

Arpaio was known for detaining undocumented immigrants in what he called a “tent prison” in the Arizona desert, where temperatures could reach an inhumane 120 degrees, and where detainees were given insufficient food and forced to wear pink underwear. Arpaio also made national headlines for instructing his deputies to racially profile Hispanics in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down an Arizona law, S.B. 1070, which required local law enforcement to check the immigration status of people they suspected were in the country illegally.

For this defiant action, Arpaio was held in contempt of court on three counts in 2016. That November, he was voted out of office. The following year, as Arpaio awaited sentencing, Trump pardoned him — a move that was criticized by then–Republican senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, then–Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and a host of law enforcement officials from around the country. Nevertheless, when Trump announced the pardon, he referred to Arpaio as an “American patriot” and someone who “kept Arizona safe.”

Over the course of his 24 years as sheriff of Maricopa County, Arpaio became a lightning rod in the immigration debate. In an interview with Ideaspace, Arpaio stood by his record, stating, “I never hid what I was doing as sheriff; I marched my chain gangs out in the open. I wanted people to know about my programs, so they could act as a deterrent.”

Regarding the contempt of court charges, Arpaio said, “I never instructed my deputies to ‘racially profile.’ Did we use race? Yes, in addition to other factors: like language; whether or not they were dirty; and how many people were in the car.”

Arpaio also said that he was only following guidance from federal authorities.

“I signed an agreement with ICE, when they trained us and let us act in their stead, that my department could use race along with other indicators in enforcing immigration laws,” he explained.

Arpaio also rejected charges that he’s racist or anti-immigrant. He noted that he has parents who immigrated legally from Italy, grandchildren who are non-white, a record of hiring immigrants, and a history of working closely with Honduran law enforcement.

“I believe in enforcing the law,” said Arpaio. “If people don’t like it, they can lobby Congress to change the laws.”

In August of 2020, Arpaio lost his bid to reclaim his office of sheriff of Maricopa County.


Arpaio’S IDEAS

  • Border Security

    While he supports additional funding for agents, technology, and tools at the border, Arpaio has also acknowledged that undocumented migrants “are very, very innovative. You’ll never secure the border. To say you’re not going to enforce the illegal immigration laws in the interior and blame it on the border, that’s just a cop-out.”

  • Border Wall

    Arpaio supports construction of border barriers, calling it a “no brainer,” and saying that a wall would stop the flow of illegal drugs and COVID-19. He also supports the Trump administration’s emergency declarations to pay for construction.

  • Detention

    Arpaio supports holding undocumented migrants in detention, and subjecting detainees to harsh conditions in an effort to deter other migrants from crossing the border. Some observers have noted that many of the austere practices he carried out in Maricopa County have been mirrored in the federal immigrant detention system.

  • Immigration Courts

    Arpaio believes in adding more judges to immigration courts in the name of “swift justice.” “Let’s get a decision quick and take care of business,” said Arpaio.

  • Undocumented Population

    Arpaio is opposed to any type of amnesty and supports deporting as much of the U.S. undocumented population as possible.

  • ICE

    Arpaio is perhaps the most vocal proponent for allowing the agency to carry out its immigration enforcement responsibilities unabated. “Pardoning Joe Arpaio,” said Kevin Landy, a former assistant director of ICE, “sends a very clear message to ICE agents that they don’t need to be overly concerned about individuals’ due process rights.”

  • DACA

    During his failed 2018 bid for the U.S. Senate, Arpaio said he would support making DACA protections permanent if the president also did so. Arpaio told Ideaspace he envisions a program where DACA enrollees must return to their parents’ home countries for six months before getting legal status in the U.S. — to learn about their parents’ language and culture and to act as ambassadors of the U.S. “Like the Peace Corp,” he said. “If the kids don’t want to go, maybe that means they should be deported.”

  • Asylum

    Arpaio has reservations about opening up asylum to those who fear gang violence. “How do you check their story?” he asked. “How do you know they haven’t committed murder themselves?” Apaio is also wary of asylum for those suffering state persecution. “What are you going to do, let the whole country in?” he asked. “No. 1 policy should be to take care of our people first.”

  • Central America Policy

    As sheriff of Maricopa County, Arpaio collaborated with law enforcement from Central America. In 2008, he paid $32,000 out of RICO funds to train Honduran police officers.

  • Visas

    Arpaio told Ideaspace that he believes the number of guest worker visas should be increased “within reason” so as to give immigrants a legal pathway to working in the U.S.