SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been billed as “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and among the most politically polarizing law enforcement figures in the country, particularly over his views on immigration.
Students at a San Francisco school made that clear when they wrote to him about the sheriff’s hard-line immigration stance. He planned to meet with the students Thursday, but the meeting did not occur.
Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, was in San Francisco for a convention of the California Alarm Association.
On Thursday, he had hoped to reach out to 8th graders at James Lick Middle School who sent him letters. Students wrote in Spanish about their disagreement with his fight against illegal immigrants and his tent prisons under the hot desert sun in Phoenix.
“They accuse me of running concentration camps,” Arpaio told CBS 5. “They call me a racist, I can go on and on. So I just wanted to meet with the kids and tell them the truth.”
According to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Arpaio was scheduled to meet with 80 students in the school’s auditorium Thursday afternoon.
Arpaio said the San Francisco Unified School District suddenly canceled his planned meeting. The school district’s media rep said she was “too busy” to explain on camera, but denied there ever was a meeting.
The sheriff defends Arizona law SB 1070, which allows his deputies to check on a person’s immigration status.
“So you don’t speak English, you have no ID, you can’t tell where you’re from…that’s suspicion, it’s lower than probable cause,” Arpaio said. “And then we have a right to call immigration and check you out.”
Arpaio’s reach is being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department. A two-year investigation found Latino drivers in his county are four to nine times more likely to be pulled over compared to non-Latinos.
The sheriff also addressed people who call him racist. “You know what I’m going to say? You know ‘n-o?’ The answer is no, period. I don’t have to justify those allegations. I know what I am,” Arpaio said.
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