Sheriff Arpaio: ‘I’ll Put up More Tents’ If Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Immigration Law

April 30, 2012 - 9:48 AM
Joe Arpaio

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, left, orders approximately 200 convicted illegal immigrants handcuffed together and moved into a separate area of Tent City, for incarceration until their sentences are served and they are deported to their home countries. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(CNSNews.com) – If the Supreme Court decides in favor of Arizona’s tough immigration bill, the Obama attorney arguing against SB 1070 predicted “mass incarceration” of Latinos.

But Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio told CNSNews.com that he does not see that as a problem in his jurisdiction.

“We lock up people all the time,” Arpaio said in a phone interview last week. “Since I started enforcement, we’ve arrested on the streets, investigated – in our jails over 51,000.

“I didn’t see any problem, other than the fact that some activists and politicians in Washington (don’t) like me enforcing the illegal immigration law,” Arpaio said.

“And by the way, if they think that it will overcrowd the jails, I’m not concerned,” Arpaio said. “I got room in the tents. I got plenty of room.

“I’ll put more tents up,” Arpaio said. “So that should never be an excuse (that) you can’t house these people.”

As reported earlier by CNSNews.com, during oral arguments before the high court on the law – which allows state police to check the immigration status of individuals stopped, detained or arrested for other reasons – Solicitor General Donald Verrilli responded to Justice Antonin Scalia’s remarks that Arizona seems to be merely enacting laws that are already federal statutes.

“Well, what I think they are going to do in Arizona is something quite extraordinary, that has significant, real and practical foreign relations effects,” Verrilli said. “And that's the problem, and it's the reason why this power needs to be vested exclusively in the federal government.”

Verrilli said Arizona’s “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” takes that power away from the government and gives it to the state.

“And so – so, you’re going to have a situation of mass incarceration of people who are unlawfully present,” he argued. “That is going to raise – poses a very serious risk of raising significant foreign relations problems.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law two years ago. Several groups, including the Department of Justice, challenged the law in court.

Only eight justices will decide the case since Justice Elena Kagan recused herself because of her work on immigration during her tenure as Solicitor General.

The court is expected to rule on the case by the end of its current term this summer. Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana and Utah have proposed or enacted similar legislation.