Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Phoenix’s Maricopa County, is infamous for his harsh crackdowns on undocumented immigrants.
But even he says Donald Trump’s anti-Mexican rhetoric has crossed a line.
“I agree with him on one aspect, that we do have rapists and murderers coming across the border,” Arpaio told Fusion anchor Jorge Ramos in an interview. “But when you mention rapists and murders, okay, I don’t think the majority of people from Mexico are rapists and murderers.”
“I think Mr. Trump was frustrated at the many crimes committed in this country by those from Mexico, including coming across the border illegally—that happens to be a criminal offense,” Arpaio said.
While he said he supports the “concept” of Trump’s deportation plan, he equivocated on whether he backs the plan itself. Ramos pushed him. “Do you really want to deport 11 million?” he asked, noting that each deportation costs the government $12,000.
“It’s not knocking doors down and dragging people out, but when you come across someone in violation of a state law, then yes, you deport them, it’s very simple,” Arpaio said. “If the illegals don’t get caught doing anything wrong, they’re not going to get deported.”
Arpaio, an icon to anti-immigrant activists for his tough rhetoric, also declined to publicly support the Donald.
“Never asked me for my endorsement. Never asked,” he said.
While some have reported that Arpaio could be Trump’s vice-president, he suggested that he’s not interested. “Why would I have a demotion? Right now, I’m the top guy. You think I want to go be a second?”
Arpaio’s sheriff’s department finally wrapped up a settlement with the Department of Justice last week, agreeing to enact new rules on how it operates. DOJ investigators found that his department had been intentionally and systematically discriminating against Latinos, and found him personally responsible for a cultural disregard.
Arpaio insisted that the settlement meant the problems were over. “An agreement has been signed, and it’s gone away,” he said.
But Ramos pointed out that the Justice Department found that Arpaio disproportionately arrested Latinos and documented examples of his employees referring to Latinos as “wetbacks, Mexican bitches, stupid Mexicans.”
“This is clearly racial profiling, sheriff,” Ramos said. “If I’m a Latino and I’m driving and they stop me simply because of my accent or because of the way I look, it’s racial profiling, and that’s what you’ve been doing.”
“If you talk about three or four instances, which I believe it was, we took action on that,” Arpaio said about the name-calling. “We do have—you’re gonna be shocked at this and I can prove it—35% of our staff is minorities. 30% are Hispanic.”
“If I am prejudiced, I wouldn’t be hiring 30% Hispanics, that’s for sure,” Arpaio added.
The Justice Department report also found that the sheriff’s department inadequately responded to reports of sexual violence, including allegations of rape and sexual assault.
“When we get an allegation, we pursue it,” Arpaio said.
Ramos also asked Arpaio about the conditions in the county jails he runs. One 23-year woman who was incarcerated in one of his jails asked Arpaio in a video message, “why do you treat animals better than humans?”
Several of Arpaio’s jails also have homes for animals, which inmates take care of.
“You’re saying I treat the inmates different, well they happen to be criminals, so they don’t get the food, the steak, and everything, that the dogs get,” Arpaio said. “Is there something wrong with that? The dogs have not committed any crime.”
“They get good food, it happens to be vegetarian,” Arpaio said of his inmates. “They don’t get steak here.”
“Should I give them steak? Macaroni and cheese? Or what?” he asked.
Finally, Ramos asked Arpaio why he keeps inviting him for an interview, even though the two have vastly different views on immigration policy and other issues.
“Why not? Why not?” Arpaio asked. “I talk to everybody. I’m an elected official, I report to the people.”
“I’m just a reporter asking questions,” Ramos said. “And I’m just a sheriff answering them,” Arpaio responded.
Watch: Jorge Ramos takes a walk through Sheriff Arpaio’s Tent City jail