Arizona sheriff defends his rallying of anti-immigration protesters: ‘I’m not the villain’

Eric Pfeiffer
Sheriff Babeu: This is 'outrageous'
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Sheriff Babeu: This is 'outrageous'

Sheriff Joe Arpaio may have at least temporarily been dethroned as Arizona’s most controversial law enforcer.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu made national headlines on Tuesday after a group of about 80 people gathered in Oracle, Ariz., to protest the arrival of a bus carrying immigrant children from Central America. Another group of about 50 people showed up to support the children.

Protesters were tipped off by a post to the Pinal County Sheriff Department’s Facebook page which said about 40 to 50 children were being transported to the "Sycamore Canyon Boys Ranch" in Oracle, Ariz.

"We already have our hands full fighting the Drug Cartels and Human Smugglers,” Babeu wrote in the Facebook post. “We don't need unaccompanied juveniles from Central America being flown into Arizona  compliments of President Obama. Local residents have every right to be upset and to protest. Our federal government has failed to enforce any immigration laws.”

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday morning, Babeu defended his actions, saying any blame should be placed squarely on the federal government, whom he accused of “not answering questions” about the crisis that has seen an estimated 50,000 undocumented immigrants illegally cross into the U.S. from Latin America so far this year, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.

"My job is to protect the families of my county and not to protect the families of Central Americans," Babeu said during an appearance on CNN's “New Day.”

“I’m not the villain here,” he added.

Regardless of what one thinks about Babeu's position, it turns out his alleged informant at Homeland Security may have been informed. The Arizona Republic writes that not only did the bus of immigrant children never show up but a bus stopped by the protesters turned out to be carrying U.S. children headed to a YMCA summer camp.

In an editorial Wednesday, the paper accused Babeu of "manipulative grandstanding."

After repeatedly being challenged on his position during the CNN interview, Babeu insisted that if the federal government would meet with local residents and law enforcement officials, the anti-immigration protestors would go home.

“The federal government should be answering these questions,” Babeu said. “It would disarm everybody. Not just me, everybody.”

Babeu received national attention back in 2012 when he was outed by his former lover during Babeu's unsuccessful congressional campaign. Jose Orozco, an undocumented worker at the time of their relationship, said that Babeu threatened to have him deported if he reported the relationship to the public. The Arizona Solicitor General later exonorated Babeu of any wrongdoing.

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