Ariz. Sheriff Finds Foes Of Immigration Campaign

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Last week, Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio and a team of 30 deputies and 30 volunteer posse members stormed Mesa's City Hall in a pre-dawn raid for illegal immigrants on the city cleaning crew. Meanwhile, a Latino neighborhood has had its police force taken away because they protested Arpaio's tactics.

ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Andrea Seabrook. The man known as America's toughest sheriff got a tough message from a federal judge this week. Clean up your jails by improving sanitation and nutrition. The message didn't do much for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's relations with the cities and towns he serves. Sheriff Arpaio made his name by campaigning to rid the Pheonix area of illegal immigrants, but that campaign has ticked off some mayors and police chiefs. And as NPR's Ted Robbins reports, it could leave one community without law enforcement altogether.

TED ROBBINS: The surveillance tape show it clearly. In the early morning hours of October 16th, people carrying weapons and wearing flak jackets entering three city buildings in Mesa, Arizona. They were 30 sheriff's deputies and 30 members of a volunteer posse. They're on a tip that illegal immigrants were inside, working for a contractor on a cleaning crew. The deputies arrested 16 people. The whole thing took place without notifying the Mesa Police Department. That outraged Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, who spoke to reporters later that day.

Mayor SCOTT SMITH (Mesa, Arizona): I think all of us can understand how it's easy for someone to make a mistake and guns start firing. And we have two police departments out there. At the same time, they don't know what each other is doing? ..TEXT: ROBBINS: Here are some contexts. Police department, headed by appointed chiefs, enforce the law within the boundaries of a town or city. Sheriffs are usually elected officials responsible for running jails and enforcing the law in incorporated or rural portions of a county. When they do go into cities, they usually work with police. But Sheriff Joe Arpaio says Mesa police don't vigorously enforce illegal immigration laws, so he has to.

Sheriff JOE ARPAIO (Maricopa County, Arizona): They should be thanking us that we locked up a bunch of felons that they refused to lock up.

ROBBINS: The Mesa incident was just the latest over the last year where Sheriff Joe, as his fans call him, has gone where he wasn't invited to arrest illegal immigrants. In March and April, Guadalupe, Arizona Mayor Rebecca Jimenez argued with Arpaio over his show of force in her town.

(Soundbite of crowd yelling)

Sheriff ARPAIO: You said that you don't want us back here tomorrow? Is that what you said?

Mayor REBECCA JIMENEZ (Guadalupe, Arizona): Yeah.

Sheriff ARPAIO: Well, we will be back here tomorrow. Full force.

ROBBINS: Demonstrators yell as the sheriff arrested 150 people, about half of whom he said were illegal immigrants. Then he told Jimenez.

Sheriff ARPAIO: If you don't like the way I operate, you go get your own police department.

ROBBINS: And that's what they're being forced to do. Last month, at the sheriff's request, the county canceled its contract with Guadalupe to provide law enforcement. The small town is poor, with fewer than 6,000 largely Hispanic and Indian residents. It says it can't afford its own police force. The sheriff, reached at his home, says too bad. He gets paid to enforce all the laws, take it or leave it.

Sheriff ARPAIO: We do this as a favor to them. Evidently, they don't appreciate that.

ROBBINS: Guadalupe is suing the sheriff and the county for terminating its contract. The town and other critics say the sheriff is being vindictive to Guadalupe, Mesa, even Phoenix, where earlier this year, he ran immigration sweeps. What all these places have in common are policies that say enforcing immigration law is primarily a federal responsibility. Dan Saban is a former police chief of Buckeye, Arizona, a Democrat who is running against the Republican Arpaio in the upcoming election. He told the TV station.

Mr. DAN SABAN (Democrat Sheriff Candidate, Maricopa County, Arizona): The voters have to question, why would 16 police chiefs within this county do it one way, and we have a county attorney and the sheriff do it another way?

ROBBINS: Saban says law enforcement budgets are better spent investigating things like violent crime. The sheriff says he can do it all, and he doesn't care what critics say.

Sheriff ARPAIO: I report to the people. I've always been elected because I go right to the people, not the politicians or the bureaucrats.

ROBBINS: And the people, at least Maricopa County voters, are expected to reelect Arpaio to another term. Ted Robbins, NPR News.

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