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Defying Feds, Arpaio Says He'll Step Up Immigration Enforcement

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Newscom / LUIS CORTES

But now, in what can only be described as a giant F.U. to the U.S. government, Sheriff Joe has announced that he'll train all 881 of his deputies to enforce federal immigration law, reports the AP.

Arpaio said that, per federal law, his office doesn't need sign-off from Washington to enforce immigration laws.

All this comes as a federal grand jury probe into Arpaio's office appears to be heating up. The Justice Department investigation initially was focused on the racial profiling allegations against Arpaio's office. But it appears to have widened to consider whether the sheriff used his position to launch politically motivated investigations against county officials, judges, and others with whom he had clashed.

Arpaio's no-holds-barred stance on immigration is also playing a role in statewide Arizona politics. He recently wrote a letter to supporters, asking them to contribute to the campaign of former congressman J.D. Hayworth, the staunch conservative and hardline foe of illegal immigration who is challenging Sen. John McCain in a GOP primary this year.

"[I]t's time to replace [McCain's] moderate or even liberal positions on taxes, the border, social causes and big bank bailouts with a consistent conservative like J.D.," Arpaio wrote in the letter. "I just wish Senator McCain had run as hard against Barack Obama as he is against a conservative like J.D."

Late Update: A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency of DHS, tells TPMmuckraker in a statement:

Sheriff Arpaio's efforts to conduct immigration enforcement actions do not derive from any ICE-delegated federal authority. ICE has no engagement in MCSO's operations outside of our standard procedures of responding to a local law enforcement agency's request for assistance.