Sheriff, Maricopa County (Ariz.)
Friday, April 30, 2010; 12:30 PM
Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County in Arizona was online Friday, April 30, at 12:30 p.m. ET to discuss the new immigration law signed last week by Gov. Jan Brewer (R), which criminalizes illegal immigration by defining it as trespassing and allows local law enforcement agencies to question people they suspect of being undocumented.
Washington, D.C.: How can law enforcement "reasonably suspect" someone of being undocumented without racial profiling? Other than race, what are the key indicators?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: When you have a legitimate contact during law enforcement operations, you should be able to ask for identification which law enforcement does anyway on a daily basis. You ask for ID and you see if that person is here illegally by checking out the immigration status of the person. We don't go around picking people off the streets because they look like they're from another country just because of their race.
Alexandria, Va.: What does Joe think about the economic boycott of Arizona?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: I think it's overblown, it's not fair. People just don't understand what the law really says. People don't understand what the law states, they're overreacting, especially by threatening boycotts.
White River Junction, Vt.: Does the sheriff favor mandatory national identity cards to be carried by all citizens?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: I think most people have a drivers license. I don't know about a national ID card.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: We've also got Social Security cards and I don't think we need another (ID) one.
Los Angeles, Calif.: What criteria will law enforcement officers use to determine whether someone is suspiciously illegal? If the criteria is not codified in the law, will it then be up to the police officers to create their own criteria, creating disparate application of the law across the state?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: Technically in the law it says no racial profiling, that's in the new law. That's why there's a lot of training going on to teach police officers to ensure that there is no racial profiling.
Perris, CA: How confident are you that this law will not lead to civil rights lawsuits going against the State of AZ and why?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: My office in the last three years has been very tough on illegal immigration. We have investigated, arrested, detained in our jails over 38,000 illegal aliens with very few lawsuits. So I'm confident that this law can be carried out without many allegations of racial profiling
Middle Island, N.Y.: Are you going after the employers of the illegals? If not, why not? I personally believe that this problem is two-fold: one is the illegals themselves and the other is the employer who hires the illegals. If we do not go after both this problem will never end. What are your thoughts?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: My office has been enforcing a state employer sanction law which is civil against the employers. We have arrested in 31 different raids of businesses about 380 people and out of the 380 that are illegal, 231 were arrested for stealing people's identification. It's very difficult to connect the employers knowingly hiring the employees but we have arrested over 231 employees for phony IDs.
Somerville, MA: What sort of response are you looking for at a federal level?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: With all the controversy under this new Arizona law that maybe Congress and the president will really look into this problem instead of just talking about it.
Manassas, Va.: I wholeheartedly support your efforts of enforcing the law. However, what concerns me is that it will be drowned by those who claim racism against Hispanics. What measures have you taken to articulate and assure this is not a racist matter but simply of enforcing the law?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: Demonstrators have followed me around for years and continue to in front of my office building, calling me Hitler and every name in the book but my response is I'm still doing the job. Last night, with all the controversy ersy, I sent out 200 deputy sheriffs and volunteer posse and within 12 hours arrested 93 people, around 65 were illegal aliens involved in human smuggling.
Boston, MA: Do you think this law will have a real impact on reducing the increased levels of drug and violent offenses, which I assume is the underlying point of the law?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: Yes. In my jail today we have almost 100 people charged with murder and they're all illegally here. Plus many other violent crimes. If they were not in this country we would not have 18 percent of the people in the jails here that have many violent crimes.
I think the real reason is that they have violated the law by crossing that border and being here and if people violate the law they should be held accountable.
New York, N.Y.: If you are in Mexico and a Mexican police officer asked for your ID, would you be upset at being momentarily detained or do you believe this is proper police action no matter what the country?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: Well I was the director in Mexico of U.S. Drug Enforcement. I know how they operate in Mexico. And you better show them the ID; their laws are a little different than ours. The audacity of the Mexican president to encourage people to boycott Arizona is not right and they ought to look at their own country first.
Arlington, Va.: Hypothetical situation: I am a U..S citizen, college age and of Hispanic ethnicity. Having a hard time getting an internship, I decide that I am going to do day labor and go to an area where people of this trade congregate. Police investigate the group for illegal immigrants, and some of the people are undoubtedly in this category and undocumented. I just happened to leave all my IDs at home. Would I get taken in under suspicion of being an illegal immigrant?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: That's part of the new law that anybody that impedes traffic by parking the car or truck to pick up day laborers -- both of them, the driver and the people coming to the vehicle -- could be in violation. Common sense says that the officer would do a little checking if they decide to arrest the person. I'm sure they'd talk to the person to figure out his identification, so I wouldn't worry about this in that situation. Every case is different in law enforcement.
Washington DC: Isn't it true that the Arizona law mirrors the Federal law? and if so "declaring the Arizona law unconstitutional" would make the federal law unconstitutional?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: That's correct. You are right on target.
Del Ray, Va.: Hey Joe - Big fan here, an Arizona native who relocated to DC area 2 years ago.
Living in Arizona I saw how illegal immigration was such a problem and how much it cost the taxpayers. What can I do from so far away to educate people on why this law is a necessity?
Keep doing what you are doing!
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: We have economic problems today, unemployment. Other than the illegal aliens violating the laws it's not fair for them taking up jobs when we have so many people legally in this country that are unemployed.
Silver Spring, MD: If you were the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, how would you address the country's illegal immigration problem?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: I would continue to crack down on those here illegally in the interior of the U.S., instead of just talking about the clichés of 'we must secure the border, more boots on the ground, it's not just a border issue' ... it's a total U.S. issue and you have to hit this problem on all different fronts.
Mesa, AZ: Hi Joe. As a descendant of Italian immigrants who entered the country before there were quotas and restrictions on foreign immigration, I'm having a hard time understanding why we do have so many restrictions nowadays.
Do you think that creating the possibility for more legal immigration pathways for unskilled immigrants will solve the problem? Or do we need fewer immigrants, legal and illegal, in the country right now?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: My mother and father came from Italy legally and made a good life for themselves. They worked hard but they were here legally. I have no problems with people coming into the U.S. to become citizens, that's what made this country great, but you must come into the country legally -- not illegally.
Kennesaw, Ga.: I am a 25-year-old Mexican-American male, first-generation American citizen. Say I drive through Arizona and get pulled over for speeding. I have dark brown skin, black hair, brown eyes, I am wearing old raggedy construction clothes. Am i more likely to be asked to prove my citizenship than a blonde-haired, blue-eyed driver that also got pulled over for speeding?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: The answer is no. We pull over many people regardless of their ethnic background or what they look like, that doesn't come into the picture.
Washington, DC: How come you have over 27,000 criminal warrants sitting on your desk, but still conduct raids looking for "illegals" like the one you did yesterday? Aren't your priorities misplaced?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: The 27,000 warrants are not my r responsibility. It's
the responsibility of the police of different cities that have those warrants. It's the cities that arrested the people and they didn't show up for court, for example. All law enforcement can pitch in. We do arrest hundreds of people wanted on warrants. We at the Maricopa sheriff's just hold the paperwork but we're not responsible for arresting those people.
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.