The feds and Sheriff Joe

When officials in the Obama administration said they would reform a Bush administration program under which members of local police departments were allowed to get some specialized training and then help bust illegal immigrants, they assured critics it was just “fine-tuning”

Not so, critics warned: The Obamanites were laying the groundwork to gut the program.

Guess who turns out to have been right?

Joe Arpaio, a gruff lawman who styles himself America’s toughest sheriff, has won acclaim from those who seek enforcement of the country’s immigration laws for his relentless pursuit of illegal immigrants in Maricopa County, Ariz.

But the controversial Phoenix sheriff has now been stripped of some of his powers in what he described as a political move by the Obama administration.

Mr. Arpaio’s aggressive tactics include the jailing of illegal immigrants in tent cities surrounded by barbed wire in the middle of Arizona’s impressively hot summers, the reduction of meal costs to 20 cents per day and chain gangs for women inmates.

In Phoenix, incredibly, criminals now say they prefer not to go to jail.

Under a two-year-old agreement with the federal Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Arpaio and his deputies had been authorized to help enforce federal immigration law by arresting suspected illegal immigrants in the field and by checking the immigration status of people arrested for other offenses.

But after drawing thousands of complaints and a civil rights investigation from the Justice Department, Mr. Arpaio last week was stripped of his federal authority to make immigration arrests. County attorney Andrew Thomas, one of Mr. Arpaio’s supporters, condemned the “setback in the fight against illegal immigration.”

Mr. Arpaio vowed to continue chasing illegal immigrants using state laws. In an angry news conference last week, he called Homeland Security officials “liars” and said he would personally drive those caught on the streets to the border if federal officers refused to take arrested illegal immigrants into custody.

Good for him.

Is President Barack Obama now the entire nation’s chief law enforcement officer — or our new chief “don’t enforce laws that Democrats don’t like” officer?

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