Joe Arpaio

Former Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff

Joe Arpaio has made a career out of exploiting immigrants in his prisons and attacking immigrants through his policies and public statements. In 2016 he was found in contempt of court for violating “an order meant to curtail racial profiling in his agency,” but was pardoned by President Trump a year later. Arpaio announced a bid to get his old job back in 2020.

  • Arpaio served as Maricopa County Sheriff from 1993 to 2017, a tenure that saw multiple recall efforts and legal challenges due to his conduct and that of his officers.
  • Arpaio often bragged about the poor treatment of people in Maricopa County jails, which included forced labor on “chain gangs,” housing people in a “tent city” next to the jail in scorching Arizona heat, serving rotten baloney sandwiches, and attempting to humiliate people with a requirement to wear pink underwear.
  • In 2004, Arpaio mandated that all undocumented immigrants in his jail register with the Selective Service System for potential millitary service.
  • From 2004 to 2007, over 400 reported sex crimes were “inadequately investigated and in some instances were not worked at all” by Arpaio’s office, according to law enforcement familiar with the cases. Many of the victims were the children of undocumented immigrants.
  • Ahead of the 2008 election, Arpaio attended a large radio event in Iowa hosted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and featuring a number of nativist elected officials such as Rep. Steve King and anti-immigrant activists including Jim Gilchrist, the co-founder of the Minuteman Project.
  • In 2010, following the passage of Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant SB 1070 law, Arpaio announced that he was forming a “posse” of civilian volunteers to assist his officers with law enforcement duties. Among the celebrities to join Arpaio was actor Steven Seagal.
  • Arpaio spoke at a large anti-immigrant gathering in support of SB-1070 in June of 2010 with Russell Pearce and others. In fact Pearce previously worked as Arpaio’s chief deputy. Both men have spoken at events together in the past.
  • For a number of years under Arpaio’s watch, his department would conduct raids, traffic stops, and other actions in an attempt to round up undocumented immigrants. Due to these tactics, Arpaio faced a number of lawsuits, including from President Obama’s justice department, alleging racial profiling.
  • In 2010, Arpaio hired IRLI lawyer Kris Kobach to train his law enforcement officers on immigration issues.
  • Arpaio was a big supporter of Donald Trump during his run for President, introducing Trump at a rally he held in Phoenix in 2015 and endorsing him in 2016.
  • In 2016, Arpaio was found in contempt of court for violating “an order meant to curtail racial profiling in his agency.”
  • Later that year, he lost his reelection bid, ending a 24-year stint as Maricopa County Sheriff.
  • But in 2017, President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio, stating, “Throughout his time as sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.” Arpaio and former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer had previously appeared with Trump on a Sean Hannity segment live from Arizona.
  • In 2017, FAIR’s Dan Stein defended Arpaio, stating, “Clearly Joe Arpaio won the war, even though he lost this particular battle. Like any good American citizen, he recognized his obligation and was willing to pay the price for a form of civil disobedience.”
  • Arpaio has granted multiple interviews to the anti-Semitic tabloid American Free Press (AFP). AFP was founded by Willis Carto, a Holocaust denier. In a May 2019 interview Arpaio was asked if he read AFP, and he responded, “Yeah, I love your paper.”
  • Arpaio was one of the leading voices promoting the racist “Birther” conspiracy theory targeting President Obama. In the same interview with AFP, Arpaio said, “Now, the irony would be if [former President Obama] was here illegally—that’s an immigration issue. I never talked about him being here illegally or from somewhere else. I said I’m investigating a fake Hawaiian government official document. And I can’t get anywhere with this. If it wasn’t him, I’m sure somebody would come to me and investigate it.”
  • In 2015, Arpaio was the keynote speaker at a rally in Salem, Oregon, organized by the anti-immigrant group Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR).
  • In 2009, Arpaio compared undocumented immigrants to fruits and vegetables and called them dirty, stating, “All these people that come over, they could come with disease. There’s no control, no health checks or anything. They check fruits and vegetables, how come they don’t check people? No one talks about that! They’re all dirty.”
  • In 2006, Arpaio openly threatened undocumented immigrants in an interview with the Washington Times. “My message is clear: If you come here and I catch you, you’re going straight to jail. We’re going to arrest any illegal who violates this new law, and I’m not going to turn these people over to federal authorities so they can have a free ride back to Mexico. I’ll give them a free ride to my jail.”
  • When putting together a press release about the swine flu disease in 2009, Arpaio suggested titling it, “Illegal Immigration Breeds Crime, Disease” according to a profile in The New Yorker.
  • Arpaio’s tent city, which lasted over 20 years, was often compared to a concentration camp for its inhumane conditions. Arpaio dismissed the comparisons in an interview with The Guardian in 2017, stating, “But even if it was a concentration camp, what difference does it make? I still survived. I still kept getting re-elected.”
  • In an interview with The New Yorker in 2009, Arpaio bragged about low costs in terms that dehumanized people in Maricopa County jails, “It costs more to feed the dogs than it does the inmates.” The same profile discussed how Arpaio allowed individuals who were incarcerated to watch the Weather Channel, “So these morons will know how hot it’s going to be while they are working on my chain gangs.”
  • The same New Yorker profile quoted Arpaio as saying, “We’re talking about drop houses and human smuggling. I think we should start off with a paragraph about how I’m concerned about the illegals coming over the border. We can’t say they’re all Mexicans. That would be racial profiling,” when stratagizing about a press release.
  • When he ran the Maricopa County Jail, Arpaio did not allow undocumented immigrants to visit individuals incarcerated there.