PHOENIX, ARIZONA - Senator John McCain's hometown sheriff, Joe Arpaio, is skipping out on a local Senate hearing Monday, organized in part by McCain. Instead, he will be taping an appearance on Comedy Central's Colbert Report. The Phoenix hearing will feature three panels of state and local officials who will discuss the impact of border violence on Arizona communities.
Sheriff Joe, who is famous (and controversial) for his reality show, tent-based jails, and large contingent of immigration enforcement officers, says he never intended to appear before McCain and other senators at Monday's hearing. Rather, Arpaio believes that submitting a written statement would better maintain the integrity of the hearings.
According to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, the hearing will examine the increasing violence on the southern border of the U.S. and will evaluate ways that federal, state, and local government agencies can mitigate violence on this side of the border, as well as ways that the U.S. can work with the Mexican government to tamp down on drug cartel violence in both Mexico and the U.S.
McCain underscored the importance of the hearing:
With Phoenix ranking second only to Mexico City for the largest number of kidnappings for any city in the world, it is appropriate that the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hold this hearing in Arizona. The violence, crime and drug trafficking in Mexico due to the raging wars among the drug cartels is increasingly coming across the border and threatening the safety of Arizonans and all Americans. I look forward to hosting this hearing in Arizona and working closely with my colleagues, the new Administration, and Mexican President Calderon to put an end to the violence caused by the Mexican drug cartels and restoring law and order.
An official statement from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) said that an appearance by Arpaio at the hearing would likely politicize the process, create disruption, and be "ultimately disrespectful of the process." In other words, Arpaio believes if he shows up, the hearing would become a media circus focused on his presence.
MCSO currently has the largest contingent of local law enforcement officers enforcing federal immigration laws under a 287(g) agreement with the Department of Homeland Security, which has been the subject of fierce debate and controversy.
Reverend Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders are planning a large demonstration in Phoenix in June. Protest organizers are demanding Arpaio's resignation or removal from office, and they are calling for an end to all 287(g) agreements.
The Colbert Report episode featuring Arpaio will air Monday evening.