While most Americans do not know the name of their local sheriff, they do know the name of Maricopa County, Arizona’s former sheriff – Joseph “Joe” Arpaio. He is known to millions across the country as “America’s toughest sheriff.”
To be sure, “Sheriff Joe” is a controversial figure. In his 24 years as Sheriff, he implemented many unconventional, often punitive measures for making sure inmates knew they were serving “hard time.” For example, in 1993 he established a “Tent City” outside the prison to house inmates convicted of crimes, and would remind them when the hot Arizona sun bore down on them that “it’s 120-degrees in Iraq and the soldiers are living in tents and they didn’t commit any crimes, so shut your mouths!” Sheriff Joe also forced his inmates to wear pink underwear after theft of underwear was costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.
Sheriff Joe earned a reputation for taking a hard-nosed approach to illegal immigration as well – a major problem in his county being so close to the border with Mexico – by favoring the strategy to find illegals and arrest them before other crimes were committed.
Arpaio’s iron-willed approach to keeping his community safe made criminals fear him, conservatives love him, and liberals detest the very ground on which he walked. While those in his community respected a lawman who put the safety of citizens above the comfort of criminals, Leftist politicians viewed him as a threat to their special interests and bleeding-heart philosophy. To the surprise of no one, Sheriff Joe soon found himself in the gunsights of former President Obama’s Department of Justice.
Last week, Obama’s hold-over lawyers finally got the pound of flesh they had sought for years. Arpaio was convicted on a misdemeanor contempt of court charge, for ignoring one federal judge’s declaration that his police patrols looking for illegal immigrants amounted to “racial profiling.” The 85-year-old former Sheriff now faces six months in prison; but more importantly, liberals finally could use a criminal charge, no matter how petty, to tarnish the reputation of a man they were obsessed with bringing down. Of course, we know Sheriff Joe’s real crime was not buying into their politically correct, Kumbaya approach to criminal justice; and that is why he is now paying the price.
Liberals love to point to Arpaio as the poster child for racism and police brutality, but they miss the very point he was attempting to prove – that decades of touchy-feely attitudes towards crime, in addition to a complete abdication of the federal government’s duty to enforce immigration laws, created the vacuum he filled with his special brand of law enforcement. It was not brutality. It was simply making sure jails are not country clubs. It was not racism. It was proactive policing to stop drunk driving, violent crimes, and gang activity before innocent Americans became victims.
President Donald Trump’s hardline rhetoric on illegal immigration can no doubt be traced in some measure back to Sheriff Joe, who was an early and public supporter of Trump. By winning the election, Trump was able to carry on this no-nonsense attitude, and the results are already showing. Last month, National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd described the drop in illegal immigrants flooding America’s border with Mexico as “nothing short of miraculous,” citing Trump’s strong comments on illegal immigration and plans for addressing it as the reason for the unprecedented decline. It also had the effect of increasing morale among border patrol agents for the first time in nearly a decade. No one more than Sheriff Joe knows that it does not take a giant wall to make a difference; just the promise and the honest commitment that the law will be enforced.