Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu is in the national media spotlight this week after the Phoenix New Times published allegations of serious misconduct on the public official’s part. According to the New Times, after a years-long romantic relationship between Babeu and a Mexican immigrant turned sour, the Sheriff’s lawyer attempted to force the individual to sign a non-disclosure statement promising never to reveal any details of the relationship to the press. When this demand was rebuffed, Babeu allegedly threatened to deport the immigrant unless the document was signed. The immigrant claims that Babeu continued to exhibit harassing and intimidating behavior, ultimately requiring the public revelation of the affair for the individual’s own protection.
That Babeu would carry on a relationship with a Mexican immigrant is somewhat surprising in and of itself, as the Sheriff has made a name for himself for his staunch anti-immigrant views. Last year, the mayors of three Arizona border cities came together to formally request that Babeu tone down his severe rhetoric in reference to the dangers immigrants pose to the border region. They claimed that the Sheriff was promoting a culture of fear in the state. Babeu actively promotes the increased militarization of the Arizona-Sonora border, arguing that our state represents a critically dangerous epicenter of our unsecured international border with Mexico.
Babeu also recently found his name in the news after the ACLU released a report harshly criticizing him and his office of operating the inhumane and abusive Pinal County Jail, a facility contracted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the detention of suspected undocumented immigrants. According to the ACLU, inmates in the jail, run by Sheriff Babeu, rarely if ever see daylight and are only permitted to communicate with family members or lawyers via closed circuit television. In addition, detained immigrants routinely claim to have experience abuse and discrimination at the hands of jail officials.
It is unclear how these latest accusations will impact the political career of the ambitious Pinal County Sheriff. Babeu is currently running in Arizona’s 4th Congressional District race, and has stated that the misconduct allegations made against him will not force him to end his run. He has, however, already been forced to withdraw from his role as the Arizona co-chair in Mitt Romney’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Many are saying that it is extremely unlikely now that Babeu will be able to continue his political career at all, let alone be competitive in this year’s congressional race.
Babeu denies all of the misconduct allegations levied against him, claiming that they are merely the attempt by a former employee to discredit him and his political career.