The House Judiciary Committee, which held a meeting on February 3 on the enforcement of immigration laws in the U.S., invited Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Arizona to testify. Babeu is known for his anti-immigrant views and claimed that many of the undocumented immigrants crossing the border have criminal backgrounds. Babeu is a controversial figure.
In the summer of 2014, when there was a surge of children fleeing to the United States across the Mexican border, Babeu reportedly leaked details of where some of those children would be bused in Oracle, Arizona, to receive social services. This led to chaos when about 80 anti-immigrant activists confronted school buses filled with children in the town and tried to halt the buses. Some held signs that said, “Return to Sender.” It turned out, however, that the school buses were filled with local children heading to YMCA camp. Local media chastised Babeu for stirring up trouble in the town. In response, he said that he was just informing the public.
Babeu has courted controversy on other occasions too. In 2012, when five bodies were found in a burned-out SUV in Pinal County, he declared that the deaths appeared to be related to a drug cartel. Later on, authorities learned that the incident was actually a murder-suicide of a family from Phoenix and unrelated to drugs.
In addition, Babeu has appeared on extremist shows. In July 2010, he was a guest on “The Political Cesspool,” a white supremacist show, where Babeu talked about immigration and bemoaned what he referred to as the invasion of Arizona. After Babeu’s appearance on the show became public, he claimed he did not know about the show’s politics.
According to media reports, he also appeared on Alex Jones’ radio show. Jones is one of the most prominent conspiracy theorist in the United States, and has been responsible for spreading and popularizing a wide variety of conspiracies, the majority espousing some form of anti-government viewpoint. Babeu reportedly spoke about an incident in which his deputy was allegedly shot by members of a Mexican drug cartel. Although Babeu exploited the deputy’s story to justify Arizona’s harsh anti-immigrant bill, SB 1070, the deputy was later fired for allegedly making false statements about the incident.