Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff and outspoken immigration hawk Joe Arpaio said Immigration and Customs Enforcement is welcome to send over undocumented immigrants released from detention to his infamous "Tent City."
"I'll take them. I have room in my tents. I would be happy to have them -- and I wouldn't even charge them. I would love to take them in the tents," Arpaio told Politico in a story published on Thursday.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement released several hundred undocumented immigrants from detention centers on Monday, citing budget constraints. Those released will still be up for deportation and monitored under alternatives to detention, and come only from the non-criminal or low-level criminal categories of detainees.
The move has started a firestorm of criticism from Republicans, who say ICE is endangering public safety and the Obama administration is exploiting the situation to scare Congress into a deal to prevent automatic budget cuts from sequestration. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the White House had nothing to do with the decision to release immigrant detainees.
Arpaio didn't buy it.
"I am always suspicious when the government that has billions of dollars has to say, 'We are going to release [illegal immigrants] because of budget problems.' I'm wary of that," he said. "They're utilizing a budget so-called crisis as the reason to kick these people loose. I do have a concern about that."
Arizona as a whole has a reputation for taking on an inflated role in policing unauthorized immigration, and Arpaio embodies that more than anyone else, save perhaps Republican Gov. Jan Brewer. He has come under fire for sweeps led including non-law enforcement "posses" to root out undocumented immigrants and accused of racial profiling and intimidating journalists. He also has been accused of mistreating people he arrests by putting them in his "Tent City," where they are at times forced to wear pink underwear and do manual labor. Numerous outlets have reported that his department had failed to adequately investigate some 400 sex crimes between 2005 and 2007.
Despite those controversies, the sheriff has retained his place in Maricopa County, where he was reelected to a sixth term in November.
Brewer, who signed into law the state's contested S.B. 1070 immigration law in 2010, also opposed the ICE decision to release detainees.
"I'm appalled to learn the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has begun to release hundreds of illegal aliens from custody, the first of potentially thousands to soon be freed under the guise of federal budget cuts," she said in a statement to Arizona's ABC 15.