RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Six months ago, Joe Arpaio, the controversial former sheriff from Arizona, was facing possible jail time. He had defied a federal judge's order to stop detaining people on suspicion of their immigration status. In the end, though, the man who calls himself America's toughest sheriff was spared. President Donald Trump pardoned him.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Sheriff Joe is a patriot. Sheriff Joe loves our country. Sheriff Joe protected our borders. And Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration.
MARTIN: Now 85-year-old Sheriff Joe is running for Senate. Befitting his hard-line approach to detention and immigration, Arpaio made the announcement this week as lawmakers debated immigration policy. I recently spoke with Arpaio about how he would handle the future of so-called DREAMers, people brought to the U.S. illegally as children under the DACA program.
JOE ARPAIO: Well, I have mixed emotions on this. I have my own idea. I don't know if you want to hear it. It's sort of out of the box.
MARTIN: Tell me about it.
ARPAIO: When I say out of the box, I do things very unorthodox or maybe controversial. But I'll tell you one thing - why don't we - when we come across these kids - or some are older than just kids - then deport them. You deport them back to the country they came from.
They can do a lot of good in those countries - they have education here - and help out and be good ambassadors to the - you know, from the United States to their country. We have the Peace Corps. You have religious missions that go on missions. And I think this would be good for the DACA people to go back and then come back over legally into our country. And that would solve a lot of problems.
MARTIN: I mean, many of these people come from very dangerous countries, where their life could be at risk if they were to return to those countries. Are you sympathetic to that?
ARPAIO: Well, you know, we have a danger here. So should we deport all the people in Chicago with all the shooting and murders, if they want to get out and go to another country? Should the other countries welcome them? I don't think they would. So it's unfortunate there's problems in other countries. But you have to do it right. So - and now it's time to send them back, especially if those countries have alleviated some of their danger and problems.
MARTIN: If it were up to you, would you close all of the borders to migrants?
ARPAIO: No. Why would we close the border completely? Just make sure you get the right people to come into our country. My father and mother came from Italy, you know. And so I have a personal interest in that situation. So this is complex. I'm sure that the Senate - I would hope - and the House would make some decisions finally, after all these years when they don't have the guts to make a decision. Right now that's what we need is some leadership and get this problem solved.
MARTIN: That was former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He's running for Senate in Arizona, hoping to replace Senator Jeff Flake, who's one of many Republicans not seeking re-election this year. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.