The longtime sheriff of metropolitan Phoenix fired up the crowd at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Thursday by reminding them of Donald Trump’s pledge to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
To chants of “build the wall,” Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Trump will secure the border, “restore law and order and keep drugs and illegal immigrants from entering into our country.”
“I am supporting Donald Trump because he is a leader. He produces results and is the only candidate for president ready to get tough in order to protect Americans,” Arpaio said. “I have fought on the front lines to prevent illegal immigration, and I know Donald Trump will stand with me and other proud Americans to secure our border.”
Arpaio went even further, making the unsubstantiated claim that terrorists are crossing the border.
“We have terrorists coming over our border, infiltrating out communities, and causing massive destruction and mayhem,” he said. “We have criminals penetrating our weak border security system and committing serious crime.”
Arpaio was a late addition to the speaker lineup on the convention’s final night, where Trump was to give a speech formally accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for president. The six-term sheriff has been an enthusiastic Trump supporter for the past year and has regularly campaigned for the New York businessman.
Arpaio’s five-minute speech came a day after a federal judge in Phoenix presiding over a racial profiling case handed down the first round of punishments for the lawman’s decision to prolong his signature immigration patrols months after being told to stop. Arpaio has been found in civil contempt in the case, and the judge ordered an overhaul of internal affairs investigations at his department, with additional sanctions expected.
On Friday, the 84-year-old sheriff is set to appear before U.S. District Judge Murray Snow for a hearing to examine whether he will recommend a criminal contempt-of-court case against Arpaio for ignoring his orders in the racial profiling case.
He voluntarily gave up his last major foothold in immigration enforcement in January 2015 after the courts and the federal government gradually reined in his powers.
The sheriff’s political strength has been gradually declining over the past four election cycles. But Arpaio’s base of devoted supporters and his impressive fundraising have helped him pull out wins.
Arpaio said in an interview before the speech that the court case hasn’t hurt his standing with Trump.
“This has been in the news for years, especially the past year, it’s been all over the place,” Arpaio said. “That didn’t affect my campaigning for Donald Trump or how he feels for me. He’s been mentioning me almost every speech he gives, so there’s nothing new with that decision. It’s been there on and on and on.”