The Maricopa County lawman — known as “America’s Toughest Sheriff” due to his aggressive (and some have argued, overzealous) anti-illegal immigration enforcement — took issue with the Republican front-runner’s contention that undocumented Mexicans are “rapists” and “murderers,” he explained in an interview this week with Univision’s Jorge Ramos on “Fusion.”
“I agree with him on one aspect, that we do have rapists and murders coming across the border. But not everybody,” Arpaio told Ramos, the journalist who made headlines in August after a confrontation with Trump at a press conference.
“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 later. “I don’t think the majority of people from Mexico are rapists and murderers.”
Arpaio also threw cold water on the notion of deporting the 11 million estimated undocumented immigrants currently living within the U.S., which Trump has endorsed.
“If the illegals don’t get caught or do anything wrong they’re not going to get deported,” he told Ramos. “They got a pass. You’re not gonna go into their house for no reason other than you think that they’re here illegally. I’m not for that.”
Although Arpaio hasn’t endorsed anyone in the 2016 race, he has seemed to have an affinity for Trump. The two appeared together at a Phoenix rally in July that reportedly drew more than 500 supporters. Arpaio’s name has even been floated as a potential dark horse vice presidential pick should Trump win the GOP nomination for president.
“Why would I have a demotion? Right now, I’m the top guy. You think I want to go be a second?” Arpaio told Ramos about the possibility of being VP. He declined to endorse Trump, saying the front-runner “never asked” him for his support.
Meanwhile, the 83-year-old remains a deeply divisive figure. In 2013, a federal judge ruled that Arpaio was unconstitutionally racially profiling Latinos. And he faces being held in contempt of court for deliberately ignoring an order to stop. The Justice Department has also reported incidents where his employees used racially offensive language to describe Mexicans.
“If you talk about three or four instances, which I believe it was, we took action on that,” Arpaio told Ramos. “We do have — you’re gonna be shocked at this and I can prove it — 35% of our staff is minorities. Thirty percent are Hispanic.”
“If I am prejudiced, I wouldn’t be hiring 30% Hispanics, that’s for sure,” he added.
Additional reporting by MSNBC’s Amanda Sakuma.