Arpaio Only One Smiling in Maricopa County

Video by America’s Voice.

NOTE: This story first appeared in the Huffington Post.

Smile, You’re Under Arrest”–that’s the name of a new reality TV show starring none other than Sheriff Joe Arpaio of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). Yet Maricopa County citizens aren’t smiling as Arpaio’s tactics have wreaked a lot of havoc, and fought little crime.

Arpaio has transformed his police department into an immigration-enforcement agency, gaining international notoriety in the process. Armed with a 287(g) agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and a mandate to enforce immigration law, Arpaio has taken the pursuit of undocumented immigrants to “unconstitutional extremes.”

Voices from across the political spectrum – elected officials, media outlets, religious leaders, and community leaders — have been critical of Sheriff Joe, his tactics, and his impact. A July 2008 East Valley Tribune series of articles chronicling its investigation of the MCSO found that immigration-enforcement activities have been expensive, resulting in few key arrests and drawing law enforcement personnel away from investigating non-immigration-related crimes. The Sheriff’s Office created a $1.3 million deficit in just three months, much of it due to overtime. To staff the immigration team, Sheriff Arpaio pulled deputies off patrol beats and used them to run the human-smuggling unit. Tactics include racial profiling, sweeps of Hispanic neighborhoods, and stops for minor traffic offenses.

While MCSO has diverted resources to immigration enforcement, response times to 911 calls have increased, arrest rates have dropped, and thousands of felony warrants have not been served. Despite the time and energy spent on immigration enforcement, the Tribune found that MCSO has had little success building cases against violent immigrant offenders or those at the top of the smuggling rings. In 2006-2007, sheriff deputies arrested 578 illegal immigrants in the course of traffic stops, and of those, 498 faced a single charge of conspiracy to smuggle themselves.

Last week, the conservative Goldwater Institute has published a report documenting how the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, under the leadership of Sheriff Arpaio, has failed to serve and protect his community. Building on the East Valley Tribune investigation, the Goldwater Institute found that, though the MCSO budget has increased at four times the rate of the county’s population, violent crimes increased nearly 70%, and homicides increased 166% between 2004 and 2007 (excluding 2005 because MCSO did not provide data).

The Goldwater Institute also found that the MCSO has a bad habit of refusing to share crime statistics and other data, and in 2007, the county had to pay $38,000 in legal fees to a newspaper for withholding press releases. Perhaps most disturbing, despite reporting a high crime clearance rate, the MCSO reported that relatively few of the cleared cases – 18% — ended with an arrest. In contrast, Phoenix had a 78% of cleared cases ending in arrest.

What does this mean for the people of Maricopa County? In April 2008 Phoenix Mayor Gordon stated that Sheriff Arpaio has created a “sanctuary county for felons” by focusing on immigration and failing to pursue felony warrants. The Goldwater Institute concludes that “MCSO has lost sight of its most essential priorities,” because while while the Sheriff has succeeded in increasing his immigration-enforcement profile, he and his deputies have failed to provide their community with effective law-enforcement tactics and essential law-enforcement support services.

It’s becoming clear that the self-proclaimed “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and his over-the-top, media-grabbing immigration-enforcement methods are harmful to the people of Maricopa County and that local anti-immigrant policies are no substitute for comprehensive and substantive immigration reform at the national level.

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  • Bryan

    Those are some serious issues. However, I’d question that “Maricopa County citizens aren’t smiling.” Haven’t they re-elected him twice now? Additionally, wasn’t there a recent recall attempt that failed? Seems they approve of something. Any polling data as to what that is?

  • Wendy

    There is plenty of polling data Bryan and it says that people want comprehension solutions to immigration not piecemeal or enforcement-only draconian measures that leave the public more vulnerable to crime as is the case in Arizona.

  • Wendy, those anomalous polls were created by activist, open-border groups like AILA, MALDEF, LaRaza, and AmericasVoice.

    The overwhelming majority of polls show that Americans overwhelmingly oppose amnesty. If this were not true, the amnesty legislation last year would have passed without hesitation. After all it was supported by: Bush, the entire Democratic Party, half the Republican Party, Big Business, Big Labor, Big Religion, Big Farm, and on and on.

    The ONLY reason it was stopped was because of mass outcry from the American public. Here’s a “comprehensive” list of polls on a variety of immigration-related subjects. You’ll see a trend:

  • Bryan

    Wendy and J.D.,

    Regardless of results, I wasn’t talking about national polling data. Unless the Justice Dept. finds illegal goings on in the sheriff’s dept., the only people who matter to Arpaio are the people of Maricopa County. That’s the beauty of local government.


  • Polling on an issue as complex and emotion-laden as immigration often produces contradictory results – sometimes even within the same poll, depending on how questions are phrased. Still, it is noteworthy that even the polls cited by NumbersUSA do NOT indicate broad-based support for the kinds of deportation-only immigration policies advocated by NumbersUSA and other restrictionist groups.

    For instance, in the first poll cited by NumbersUSA (by the German Marshall Fund), 49% of respondents in the U.S. thought that illegal immigrants “should be given the opportunity to obtain legal status that allows them to stay here” (vs. 43% who thought they “should be required to return to their country of origin”). And 61% of respondents in the U.S. supported the option of reducing illegal immigration by “making it easier for immigrants to legally enter the U.S. to work and study.”

    As another example, the third poll cited by NumbersUSA, under the somewhat misleading headline “Rasmussen Poll reveals Americans Angry over Immigration,” actually found that 26% of respondents were “angry about immigration” – slightly LESS than the 29% who thought that “legalizing the status of undocumented workers” was an even higher priority than “securing the border” in addressing illegal immigration.

    Overall, polls do NOT indicate “overwhelming” support for the notion that we should try to round up and deport 12 million undocumented men, women, and children (many of whom have lived here for over a decade). Rather, most Americans seem to want a practical solution to illegal immigration that combines sensible enforcement measures with a revamping of dysfunctional immigration laws.

  • Ana P.

    Whoa, talk about the pot calling the kettle black! J.D.’s link takes you straight to the skewed and distorted headlines of one of the most restrictionist groups out there (also one of John Tanton’s start-ups)! No wonder Walter was able to find the truth behind NumbersUSA’s misleading headlines and shoddy research.

    Also, according to some, Arpaio’s approval ratings are much lower than what his PR team touts:

  • Richard C

    Whose to say Mr. Arpaio won’t get stopped to present his iD. His skin tone isn’t White Anglo.