An audio recording has surfaced of an Arizona sheriff playing his refusal to co-operate in a federal racial profiling investigation for laughs at a fundraiser for an anti-illegal-immigration group in Texas. He ridicules politicians who sought the probe and displays contempt toward federal authorities who were – and are still – investigating him on two fronts.
The dismissive comments in 2009 by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has a national reputation for his get-tough approach to dealing with illegal immigration, came as the U.S. Justice Department had already launched a civil rights probe of his trademark immigration patrols and the FBI already was examining abuse-of-power allegations related to the sheriff’s investigations of political foes.
In the September, 2009, speech in Houston, Mr. Arpaio boasted that he arrested hundreds of illegal immigrants after politicians and federal investigators started to pick apart his patrols. He said he wouldn’t co-operate with the inquiry, but said he would tone down the patrols – if he was proven wrong.
“But I’m not. After they went after me, we arrested 500 more just for spite,” the self-proclaimed “America’s toughest sheriff” said, pausing for laughter and applause.
In an interview Thursday, Mr. Arpaio defended his comments before Texans For Immigration Reform as a collection of humorous off-the-cuff remarks intended merely to show that he wasn’t going to back down to critics.
The sheriff currently awaits a lawsuit that the U.S. Justice Department has promised to file over its civil rights allegations. Mr. Arpaio’s office is accused of racially profiling Latinos and retaliating against critics of its immigration patrols.