America's Top 10 'Toughest' Immigration Sheriffs

These top lawmen may not be household names, but they're vocal, vigilant and very determined to rid their counties of illegal immigrants.  Here's a look at some of the country's most outspoken anti-immigration advocates and some of their more significant actions:


    Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County, Arizona

    Long-known for touting himself as "America's Toughest Sheriff," Joe Arpaio, left, has been the head lawman of Arizona's Maricopa County since 1992. Arpaio readily promotes his "get tough" policies on the county's official website, including the prohibition of smoking, coffee, pornography and unrestricted television in all jail cells. His office also provides the cheapest food to U.S. inmates at 15 cents per meal and has even stopped serving salt and pepper to save taxpayers $20,000 annually. But Arpaio is best known for his stance against illegal immigration, including widespread sweeps in immigrant neighborhoods. In August, he told a crowd that unlike the federal government, his office has managed to put a significant dent in unauthorized border-crossings: "In three years, over 40,000 we have arrested, investigated and detained." Critics, meanwhile, accuse Arpaio of racial profiling and the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against him in September for his refusal to cooperate in a federal probe into allegations of discrimination and illegal searches and seizures.

    Sheriff Charles Jenkins, Frederick County, Maryland

    A lifelong resident of Frederick County, Md., Charles Jenkins initiated the controversial 287(g) Immigration Enforcement Program shortly after he was elected in 2006, becoming the first law enforcement official in Maryland to do so. The program, which some say leads to racial profiling, trains deputies to check the immigration status of individuals they arrest and has turned over at least 650 illegal immigrants in the county to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation hearings since its inception. Jenkins told "Maryland Sheriff" magazine last year that the program is the "single best thing" that any lawman could do to keep their citizens safe. He also testified before Congress in March 2009 on the importance of local enforcement of immigration laws.
    Frederick County Sheriff's Office

    Sheriff Neil Warren, Cobb County, Georgia

    Neil Warren, a 36-year law enforcement veteran, believes illegal immigration is a federal issue until a crime is committed by an unauthorized alien in his jurisdiction. At that point, according to his campaign website, "it becomes a local law enforcement issue." Warren was the first sheriff in Georgia authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to participate in ICE's 287(g) program, which used to identify more than 180,000 illegal immigrants for deportation nationwide since 2006. As of late September, the program had been used to identify 14,692 illegal immigrants in Georgia alone since Warren took office, prompting three other counties to sign agreements with ICE. Warren, who has been dubbed "Wild West Warren" by pro-immigration groups, was named in a federal lawsuit filed by three immigrants last month in Atlanta that challenges the legitimacy of the program.
    Cobb County Sheriff's Office

    Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu

    At age 41, Paul Babeu, left, is Arizona's youngest top lawman and is one of the state's most outspoken critics of illegal immigration. In May 2009, four months after taking office, Babeu teamed with immigration hard-liners like Arpaio, right, and state Sen. Russell Pearce to call for more involvement from local police regarding immigration enforcement. Since then, Babeu, who also serves as president of the Arizona Sheriff's Association, has repeatedly called for additional federal assistance to combat violence associated with unauthorized aliens and has characterized the issue as the "most serious public safety threat." In May, while responding to an incident in which a deputy was allegedly shot while tracking suspected drug smugglers, Babeu wrote: "Pinal County is not a border county with Mexico, yet we have paramilitary squad-sized elements who are operating deep within Arizona. This is unacceptable and must be stopped."

    Sheriff Daron Hall, Davidson County, Tennessee

    Daron Hall, a Nashville native, is perhaps best known for making Davidson County just the fourth jurisdiction nationally to enforce immigration laws on illegal aliens via the 287(g) program, which has identified more than 7,000 unauthorized immigrants in the county since April 2007. Hall recently defended the program when critics and federal officials claimed it targeted too many minor criminal offenders and not enough felons, telling The Tennessean: "We are going to screen everybody."
    Davidson County Sheriff's Office

    Sheriff Ralph Ogden, Yuma County, Arizona

    A lifelong law enforcement officer with a formidable handlebar mustache, Ralph Ogden is a former president of the Arizona Sheriff's Association and currently serves as chairman of the Southwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Board of Directors. But Ogden is perhaps best known for backing a proposal to build a moat around Yuma by diverting waters from the Colorado River to serve as a "security channel" along the border. The project never got off -- or under -- the ground, but Ogden said the porous border had become a "no-man's land, an area where bodies were dumped." Ogden told Reuters at the time: "It doesn't take much brainpower to build a 12-foot high fence around something, but this is unique."
    Yuma County Sheriff's Office

    Sheriff Richard Jones, Butler County, Ohio

    Affectionately known as "Jonesy," Sheriff Richard Jones has been Butler County's top law enforcement official since 2005 and has long sought an Arizona-like immigration law for the Buckeye State. Jones' tough stance on illegal immigration made national headlines last month when he announced he was looking into the possibility of filing a civil lawsuit against the Mexican government and President Felipe Calderon to recoup local tax dollars used to detain and house illegal immigrants. Jones said he will not file the lawsuit unless he finds an attorney to take the case pro-bono, but he remains hopeful to make the case into a class-action lawsuit with other sheriffs nationwide. "People are fed up with immigration and our government doesn't seem to be willing to stop it," Jones told last month, adding that he intends to hit Mexico "in the pocketbook."
    Butler County Sheriff's Office

    Sheriff Tom Sheahan, Mohave County, Arizona

    A 38-year law enforcement veteran, Tom Sheahan fully supported Arizona's controversial new immigration enforcement law before a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in July blocking the law's most controversial provisions the day before S.B. 1070 was to take effect. In May, Sheahan told the Las Vegas Review-Journal there was "overblown reaction" to the law and said, if nothing else, it put a spotlight on the need for federal immigration reform. Sheahan told the newspaper about 300 illegal immigrants were detained in Arizona's Mohave County in 2006 and 2007. That number has dropped by half in 2008 and 2009, he told the newspaper, largely thanks to a lack of jobs in the county. Still, it's clear that the number of illegal immigrants in the non-border county have dwindled, according to Sheahan.
    Mohave County Sheriff's Office

    Sheriff Arvin West, Hudspeth County, Texas

    Hudspeth County's top lawman for the past decade, Arvin West is known for his no-nonsense approach and candid dialogue, especially as it pertains to illegal immigration. The 27-year law enforcement veteran told residents of Fort Hancock, Texas -- a tiny agricultural border town -- in April to "arm [themselves]" due to ongoing violence along the boundary with Mexico, particularly the murder of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz a month earlier. Years earlier, in 2006, West warned the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Homeland Security of escalating violence along the Texas-Mexico border. In prepared testimony, West said: "If drug [c]artels can solicit untrained people to drive across the border undetected and enter this county with illicit products, then what can a well-trained terrorist do?"

    Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu

    An Arizona native and 34-year Cochise County law enforcement veteran, Larry Dever, left, emerged with Arpaio and Babeu, right, as the most vocal supporters of Arizona's immigration bill before it became law. The three have since been named as defendants in a lawsuit involving S.B. 1070 filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and other groups. The three lawmen also gathered last week to watch a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hearing to overturn a judge's decision to halt four parts of the law from going into effect. Dever, who has testified before Congress on immigration-related issues on three separate occasions, has said he favors the law due to a provision that would require all law enforcement agencies to check immigration status.
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