Sheriff JoeArpaio at Casa Guadalajara in Old Town. Photo by Chris Jennewein
Sheriff Joe Arpaio at Casa Guadalajara in Old Town. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Joe Arpaio, the controversial, six-term sheriff of Arizona’s largest county, said Friday that sending National Guard troops to the border is not the answer to the latest immigrant surge.

“It’s good public relations, perception, deterrent. All that’s imortant. But it’s not going to do that much,” he said in an interview with Times of San Diego. “The National Guard really doesn’t have the authority to do the enforcement.”

Earlier this week, Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced that he would order 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas border to help stem the surge in unaccompanied minors from Central America.

The sheriff is known nationally for the “tent city” jail in Phoenix, aggressive enforcement of immigration laws and his investigation of President Obama’s birth certificate. He was in San Diego to speak at a meeting Saturday of Ramona TEA’d, a Tea Party group. He met Times of San Diego after a lunch in Old Town’s Casa Guadalajara, where he mingled with tourists from Arizona, shaking hands.

Arpaio said he believes it’s impossible to stop the immigrant surge without joint operations involving the Border Patrol, possibly the military, and the Mexican Army and Mexican Federal Police. He said he based this on his 25 years of experience as a Drug Enforcement Administration officer, including assignments in Central America. “We used to do [joint operations], but I don’t think this president wants to do it,” Arpaio said.

He took issue with the “secure the border” message heard from politicians at all levels, saying it can never be fully secured and suggested waiting for this would only delay changes to immigration laws. On that issue, he opposed amnesty but said he supports increasing visas and taking other steps to allow more lawful immigration.

One of Arpaio’s most controversial moves was to set up a citizen posse, which he is permitted to do under Arizona law, to investigate claims that President Obama’s birth certificate is fraudulent. “We’ve been working two and a half years,” he said. “I feel very confident that we have proof that it’s a fake, forged document…Little by little, I’m getting closer. I’m not giving it up.”

Arpaio, 82, said he considered a run for governor, but has deciced to seek a seventh term as sheriff. In January he will be the longest-serving elected sheriff of Maricopa county.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.