Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Phoenix, Arizona, seems to have an appetite for publicity so insatiable that it overrides both rationality and morality. His latest stunt—announced yesterday in an official press release, no less—comes today, when he will order “approximately 200 illegal aliens to be chained and marched” from the Durango Jail to a segregated area of his “Tent City” incarceration complex. Lest one be fooled into believing that this is a legitimate law-enforcement operation, Arpaio’s press release includes details on the parade route and where “interested media” should park to cover this spectacle of degradation.

According to Arpaio, marching chained immigrants from prison cells to tents surrounded by electric fencing will save money because it’s cheaper to house inmates in tents than in a traditional jail. However, Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox notes that Arpaio “doesn’t outline how he’ll save costs.” Acting County Manager Sandi Wilson says that if Arpaio is “coming up with budget savings, he ought to offer it up. At this point, he hasn’t. And this doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Arpaio’s claim to be genuinely concerned about the county budget is undermined by more than his apparent glee at the “shock” undocumented immigrants will receive if they attempt to scale the electric fence in which they will be enclosed. It is also contradicted by his well-documented history as a profligate spender of taxpayer money who prefers political grandstanding to serious law enforcement. As the Immigration Policy Center notes in a December 2008 fact sheet, investigations by the East Valley Tribune and the conservative Goldwater Institute have found that, under Arpaio’s leadership, the budget of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has nearly doubled since 2001, yet “response times to 911 calls have increased, arrest rates have dropped, and thousands of felony warrants have not been served.” Meanwhile, “hundreds of undocumented immigrants have been arrested for smuggling themselves, often when their vehicles are stopped for burned-out license plate lights or for traffic violations.”

Sheriff Arpaio’s newest media extravaganza at the expense of immigrants certainly won’t do anything to stop undocumented immigration or to reduce serious crime in his community. But it may help drum up even more publicity for Arpaio himself and further endear him to anti-immigrant activists. And perhaps that is what this is all about.