Big Winner On Arizona Immigration Law: Arpaio

April 26, 2010 10:01 a.m.

One big winner in Arizona’s draconian new immigration law? Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Since the law was signed last week, the hard-line Maricopa County lawman has been making the media rounds to praise it, as well as to thumb his nose at the federal investigation into his own controversial immigration enforcement tactics. And lately he’s even been talking up a possible run for governor.In a press conference over the weekend, Arpaio said the law — which requires police to question people about their immigrant status if they suspect they are here illegally — offers his office “another tool to fight the illegal immigration problem.” He added that it “will give us a little more authority” to detain illegal immigrants who aren’t accused of other crimes.

Arpaio hasn’t to date appeared overly concerned about his department’s formal authority to make arrests. Indeed, his no-holds-bared tactics have made him the poster boy for the kind of aggressive approach that the law seems designed to codify.

The sheriff announced in February that he’d train all 881 of his deputies in how to enforce federal immigration law — and brought in a top former Bush Justice Department foe of illegal immigration, Kris Kobach, to conduct the training. (Indeed, Kobach helped write the new state law.)

All that came after the federal government had already stripped one hundred Maricopa County deputies of their ability to make immigration arrests, amid a slew of complaints that Arpaio was using racial profiling techniques to round up suspected illegal immigrants.

Those allegations are also the subject of a federal grand jury investigation, which also is reportedly looking at whether Arpaio used his office to target political opponents.

Perhaps emboldened by the new law — which could be said to give the state’s imprimatur to his aggressive immigration enforcement techniques — Arpaio blithely brought up that federal investigation in an interview this morning with NBC’s The Today Show. Asked by Matt Lauer whether the new law could lead to racial profiling, the sheriff responded: “Sixty days into the Obama administration, he sent his Justice Department down to the Phoenix area to investigate me for alleged racial profiling. It’s been a year-and-a-half and nothing has happened. So, we know how to enforce the illegal immigration laws without racial profiling.”

Arpaio added that, rather than creating negative publicity for Arizona, as some critics have suggested, the law will cause more people to move to the state. “When we raid private businesses and arrest illegal aliens working there,” he explained, “we’re making more job openings by getting rid of those that are here illegally.”

Indeed, so peachy are things looking for Arpaio that he’s even talking once more — as he has done a few times in the past — about running for governor. “I do know deep in my heart that I can win,” he told an Arizona Republic columnist last week, adding: “I love challenges.”

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