To people who say round up more illegal immigrants, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County here has an answer: send out the posse.
On Wednesday, the posse, a civilian force of 300 volunteers, many of them retired deputies, are to fan out over desert backcountry, watching for smugglers and the people they guide into these parts.
I dare President Bush to call Arpaio’s posse “vigilantes“. The good Sheriff would probably have the President wearing pink underwear and making his own ham sandwiches in a tent on the north lawn before the day was through.
“I have compassion for the Mexican people, but if you come here illegally you are going to jail,” said Sheriff Arpaio, an elected Republican, whose county is the fourth most populous in the country and among the fastest growing.
Why is it so hard for folks in Washington to forget we actually have laws on the books making the improper entry or stay in the U.S. illegal? It’s as if they pretend we don’t have such laws in place.
Lawyers and advocates for the jailed immigrants, several of whom are challenging their arrests, take a different view.
“It’s really an attempt to intimidate immigrants by threatening and imposing incarceration,” said Victoria Lopez, executive director of the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project.
Yeah, just like the laws making murder a crime are an attempt to intimidate murderers by threatening and imposing incarceration. Get it?
Peter Schey, a lawyer from Los Angeles hired by the Mexican consulate here to represent some of the detainees, said, “This sheriff is not the director of homeland security, but that is how he is acting.”
Maybe it’s time to make it official.
Sheriff Arpaio’s cellphone ringtone plays “My Way” by Frank Sinatra. “I have enough confidence with the Maricopa community,” he said in his 19th-floor office here, the walls decorated with clippings of news coverage. “If not, that’s the way the ball bounces.”
If only we had more men like Arpaio looking out for us.