Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 12:15 pm

By Richard Smith, DAILY NEWS-SUN

Jarod Opperman/Daily News-Sun
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks to the Sun City Republican Club Monday afternoon at the Sundial Recreation Center.

As fill-in speakers for the Sun City Republican Club go, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a pretty safe bet.

With U.S. Rep. Trent Franks unable to make the engagement due to a scheduling conflict, the six-term sheriff came to Sundial Recreation Center Monday and entertained the audience.

At times his speech resembled a GOP comedy hour. In those moments, and in the more serious policy discussions, the primary topic was immigration.

“I report to the 4.5 million people — that we know of — living in this county,” Arpaio said, simultaneously including a jab at the number of illegal immigrants in the Valley and explaining why he often has contentious relations with federal and local officials and the media.

Later in his speech, the man at the epicenter of the national illegal immigration debate shared a lament. He said he’s been the target of attacks and lawsuits — including one that finished in May with a federal judge finding MCSO guilty of racial profiling for its methods of selecting and detaining those it believed are in the country illegally — on the subject, yet he rarely is asked for his opinion on the matter.

“Why not take advantage of my big mouth and ask me what I think about immigration?” Arpaio said.

Mexico was one of several countries Arpaio lived and worked in during his previous career with the Drug Enforcement Administration. He and the agents he led met with local officials, got to know who was powerful and took to the streets to help local police clean up drug-related crime.

Arpaio favors this street-level approach to pouring in more money and resources toward border security measures and adding waves of staff to the border patrol. His solution is to send border patrol agents and U.S. military personnel into Mexico, not for raids but to work with Mexican authorities, both at a federal and local level.

“You’ll never secure the border. Never. Not 100 percent. It won’t happen,” Arpaio said. “I covered that for 50 years. There will always be people coming across the border. I don’t see anybody saying they’re going to jail. They send them back, and they go right back over again. They want to spend billions and billions of dollars to secure the border and hire 20,000 more Border Patrol. They can’t even take care of what they have today.

“If we give them help in Mexico, you’ll see a big change from all these people coming into the United States,” he said.

Switching gears from the international to the local, the sheriff promised to look into how the department is dealing with golf car drivers, as a pair of residents said MCSO was coming down too hard on drivers who were staying between the white line and the road shoulders.

The rest of the meeting played like Arpaio’s greatest hits with topics including building up the posse, Tent City, female chain gangs, increasing meal prices at MCSO jails and holiday roundups of parents who fail to pay child support.

“I’ve had four presidential candidates visit me in the tents. If it’s so bad, why would presidential candidates stand next to me,” Arpaio said. “They all lost. Any politician here, don’t come to the tents. I tried to get Hillary (Clinton) here a month ago.”