Sheriff Joe Arpaio spoke to ASU College Republicans Thursday afternoon on the Tempe campus about immigration policies and his tenure as Maricopa County sheriff.
About 80 people attended the event, including a small group of protesters.
Ashley Allen, vice president of the ASU College Republicans, said Arpaio was invited because he is a well-known Arizona official.
“Illegal immigration is a serious problem,” Arpaio said during his speech. “It’s an enforcement problem, a diplomatic problem, and it’s a political problem.”
He also talked about his tour in Mexico working for the federal government and how his daughter attended ASU and graduated with a journalism degree.
Rey Torres, a member of the Arizona Latino Republican Association, also spoke at the event and said his family came to America legally from Mexico in the 1900s.
He said people need to recognize that the government is not trying to just push people out of the country, but is trying to uphold the law. He doesn’t believe people should break the law by entering the country illegally and by stealing identities of citizens.
Three protesters at the event dressed like police officers and had hot-pink feather boas dangling from their necks. Two others showed up later.
They were also carrying signs with the group’s name: Performers for Public Safety. They danced and sang in front of Arpaio as he arrived on campus for his speech.
The small group chanted, “Stop in the name of hate” and “Sheriff Joe, what a joke! Arpaio’s law suits leave us broke.”
Arpaio confronted the protesters, who told him his immigration raids are separating children from their parents and families.
In his speech, he said he felt bad for the families he caused to be separated and he felt bad for all of the criminals who are separated from their children, not just those who were incarcerated for illegal immigration.
Vikter Lopez Medina was one of the protesters, and he talked about why he was demonstrating against Arpaio.
“He targets the migrant community and we are here to flex our community voice and also show our resistance now that he is here,” Medina said.
Medina also said a scandal, in which Arpaio’s office is accused of misspending about $99 million, plays an important role in what people think about the sheriff.
Arpaio said the funds were not stolen and no one in his office is guilty of a crime. He added that the missing money was nothing more than an accounting error.
Although Arpaio said he is used to people protesting him, the demonstration was “a little unusual.”
“I usually have 200 people that aren’t dressed up in this kind of garb,” Arpaio said about the oddly dressed protesters.
He said several times during his speech he was disappointed there were only three protesters, and he expected more people to be in attendance.
“I thought with such a big university I would have at least had three or four hundred,” Arpaio said.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com