"America's Toughest Sheriff" Joe Arpaio Faces a Tough Choice

Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Although President Obama has come under fire in recent days for dragging his feet on promised immigration reform, his administration just announced an effort to transform the nation’s immigration detention centers into a “truly civil detention system.” Specifics haven't been announced, but the main goals of the plan are to establish a centralized authority over the system and to create more humane detention facilities suitable for detainees facing deportation.

Under the new laws, the administration has butted heads with "America's Toughest Sheriff" Joe Arpaio. The Maricopa County Sheriff is infamous for his “crime suppression sweeps,” and made a name for himself by taking the issue of illegal immigration into his own hands. He accomplished this by arresting nearly 600 people in little over a year, less than half of whom were in the country illegally. Using illegal racial profiling techniques and intimidation, Arpaio has been terrorizing Latinos in his community.

The Department of Homeland Security recently clarified its policy on "immigration sweeps"—chastising local law enforcement agencies and ordering them to only target “criminal aliens” or those who have committed a crime other than illegal immigration. It’s crunch time for Arpaio, who now has less than 90 days to choose whether or not he’ll continue to participate in the federal program.

Between the obscene number of innocent people he has detained and the accusations of racial profiling, Arpaio has a real dilemma on his hands. If he accepts the new policy, he can still conduct sweeps, but his deputies will have to release illegal immigrants who have not committed other crimes. If Arpaio doesn't agree to the terms, he won't be able to continue with his program.

No matter what he decides, Arpaio is confident that he’ll get his way. “Nothing is going to change. They can keep trying to come after me. They can keep trying to restrict me with more policies,” the Sheriff said.

What do you think of Obama’s push for more humane immigration detention policies and Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s response?

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