Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio appeared on CNN's "American Morning" Monday ahead of a press conference with Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain and the chairman of the Arizona Republican party in Phoenix. Arpaio was first asked why the GOP candidates were seeking his endorsement.
"Well, it’s not because I’m tall, dark, and handsome, which I’m not," he joked. "But I have been around twenty years, and many years as head of the Federal Drug Enforcement in Mexico, Texas, Arizona. So I think I know where the border is. That may be one reason, but I’ll meet with Mr. Cain. I met with Michele Bachmann in my office last month, and I’ll see how he stands on the illegal immigration problem," said the Arizona sheriff. Arpaio has said that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have called him too.
The 79-year-old Arpaio, known as "America's toughest sheriff," has gained much publicity for his immigration enforcement tactics. He has undertaken raids in predominately Latino neighborhoods to sweep up undocumented immigrants. He has gained notoriety for making inmates wear pink underwear and flip-flops, creating a tent-city jail, and bringing back chain gangs. A federal grand jury has been investigating Arpaio for abuse of power allegations since early 2010, which Arpaio called "garbage" on the show. The Justice Department settled a lawsuit against Arpaio after he acquiesced to hand over documents related to a civil rights investigation.
CNN asked Arpaio about Cain's comments Saturday on the campaign trail, calling for an electrified border fence. The former Godfather's Pizza CEO said, "It's going to be 20 feet high. It’s going to have barbed wire on the top. It’s going to be electrified. And there’s going to be a sign on the other side saying, ‘It will kill you -- Warning.'" He said Sunday on "Meet The Press" that it was a "joke" and "not a serious plan."
Arpaio responded, "Oh, I’m sure he was joking, but it probably means that he’s taking it serious to do something at the border and stop the illegal immigrations." He added that he did not oppose a fence, but that he would "like to see people go to jail, not give 'em a ride back to Mexico."
Cain also spoke on immigration at a campaign stop last summer in Iowa, later calling it a joke:
I just got back from China. Ever heard of the Great Wall of China? It looks pretty sturdy. And that sucker is real high. I think we can build one if we want to! We have put a man on the moon, we can build a fence! Now, my fence might be part Great Wall and part electrical technology. ... It will be a twenty foot wall, barbed wire, electrified on the top, and on this side of the fence, I'll have that moat that President Obama talked about. And I would put those alligators in that moat!
Arpaio was asked about Cain's immigration plan, which includes promoting "a pathway to citizenship that is already there" in addition to securing the border. "Well, I’m against amnesty," he said. "We do enforce the laws in the interior, we go into private businesses and lock up those employed illegally," he said.