The long feud between "America’s toughest sheriff" and the nation’s president just got longer.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Friday’s move by President Barack Obama to give amnesty to children of illegal immigrants is politically motivated and will encourage more Mexicans to cross the border but that he will still enforce all immigration laws in his state of Arizona.
“It seems to be politically motivated,” Arpaio told a Phoenix ABC News affiliate
. “I would rather see the president let the Congress decide what to do with this issue and other illegal immigration problems.”
For the Maricopa County sheriff, this is yet another battle in a simmering war with the White House. Last December, the Justice Department released a scathing report accusing Arpaio and his office of committing a wide range of civil rights violations against Latinos. Justice Department investigators said the abuses included a pattern of racial profiling.
The Justice Department also accused Arpaio’s office of a pattern of discrimination and carrying out heavy-handed immigration patrols based on racially charged citizen complaints.
The report was a result of the department’s three-year investigation of Arpaio’s office amid complaints of racial profiling and a culture of bias at the agency's top level.
Arpaio has repeatedly charged that the federal investigation is part of a larger political vendetta against him by local activists and the Obama administration.
In May, a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department accused Arpaio’s office of a pattern of unlawful conduct in its crackdown on illegal immigrants, escalating an already tense dispute over local enforcement of federal immigration laws and the civil rights of Latinos.
Arpaio has been a vocal advocate of investigating Obama’s place of birth. The president has produced a birth certificate showing he was born in Hawaii, but rumors that he was in fact born in Kenya — and thus ineligible to be president — have persisted.
The sheriff drew national headlines when he announced in March that a six-month probe by investigators had found that "probable cause exists indicating that forgery and fraud may have been committed" in the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate.
"Based on all of the evidence, I cannot in good faith report to you these documents are authentic," Arpaio said and added that his investigators believe the long-form birth certificate may have been manufactured electronically.
The hardliner against illegal immigration became sheriff of Maricopa County — Arizona's largest, which centers on Phoenix — in 1993. He has been re-elected five times and is up before voters again in November.
Of the Obama immigration announcement, Arpaio said it will further embolden immigrants from Central America.
“I think people from Mexico are now going to feel, ‘Hey come on in and we’ll get by with it.’ But it won’t happen in this county. They will still be arrested,” he told the ABC News affiliate.
Obama’s policy, effective immediately, applies to people under 30 who came to the U.S. before they turned 16 whohave lived in the United States for five years, have no criminal record, and have earned a high school diploma, remained in school or served in the military.
The decision, policy shift announced by Obama in a Rose Garden press conference on Friday, closely reflects the DREAM Act that has been debated in congress since it was first introduced in 2001 and which died in the senate last year.
Obama said the new policy affects about 800,000 undocumented immigrants.
“We’re still going to enforce all those illegal immigration laws…It looks to be like another pathway to citizenship again, which I believe the president wants,” Arpaio said.
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