As Sheriff Joe Arpaio calls out California for lax immigration policies, Hispanic voters make immigration reform their top priority

In a speech on Tuesday night at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, immigration hawk Joe Arpaio of Arizona said that California’s lax immigration policies are to blame for the state’s lingering high concentration of illegal immigrants.

     “Unfortunately, everybody we arrest is headed for California,” he said according to a report from Arizona radio station KTAR. “I wonder why they’re headed for California. Because nobody enforces the law around here.”

Taking a jab at California’s 12.3% unemployment rate and the rest of the nation’s almost 10% figures, the Maricopa County sheriff also said that California’s woes on the job front are also due to the state not enforcing immigration laws, responding that it’s states like California that are allowing for illegal immigrants to have a foothold on jobs that Americans should have.

Arpaio said that this wasn’t the case in his own county.

     “I’m saying we’re making vacancies. When we arrest people here illegally in the working place, and we put them in jail, which we do, it’s vacancies for the owners to hire U.S. citizens to work,” he said regarding the issue.

As controversial as he may be perceived, the sheriff’s assessment of California doesn’t seem too far off the mark when lined up with reality. 

According to recent estimates from the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center, California finished second to Nevada for shares of illegal immigrants in the state’s workforce, by a percentage of 9.7% to 10% respectively. At the same time, the Center also estimated that California had the largest number of unauthorized employees in the state workforce with 1.85 million workers. The other states following California were Texas, Florida, and New York.

As some Hispanics cringe at the sheriff’s strict enforcement policies, most notably his well-known Tent City for prisoners and his mandate that they wear pink underwear, Hispanic sentiment regarding immigration policy is seemingly taking on new life. 

Reporter Ben Smith, in a blog post for Politico, noted that a Latino Decisions poll shows that immigration reform is now a top issue for Hispanics at 47% with the economy ranking second at 34%. The poll was conducted of randomly selected Hispanics in 21 states with the largest Hispanic populations. The sample size amounted to 500 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.38%. 

As previously noted here at CAIVN, the issue has typically lagged behind job concerns. In an earlier poll conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center near the end of 2010, the immigration issue ranked below education, jobs, and healthcare.

Ultimately, Arpaio believes that the fault of illegal immigration in the United States lies with the politicians and employers who don’t desire to abide by the law.

     “The politicians want the Hispanic vote. The employers want to hire cheap labor. And that’s the problem. So if we’re going to enforce the laws at the border, then enforce them in the interior of the United States, which I’ve been doing as evidenced by 46,000 illegals at my office as arrested, enforcing two state laws,” he told the Orange County Register and others at the Nixon Library event.