2. Joe Arpaio
The publicity-hungry sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., repeatedly stole headlines this year. Dubbing himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” Arpaio starred in a Fox reality show called “Smile… You’re Under Arrest!” The role was fitting for Arpaio, who spent 2009 publicizing his Latino neighborhood raids where deputies arrested thousands of illegal immigrants for non-violent crimes, dressed them in pink underwear and housed them in sweltering “tent cities.” But Arpaio actually helped focus public attention on the problems of the 287(g) program, which gives local sheriffs like Arpaio the authority to enforce the federal immigration laws. His apparent abuse of that authority led the Department of Homeland Security to tighten the reins on Arpaio, whom immigrant advocacy groups and eventually federal officials accused of ethnic and racial profiling. In October, Arpaio complained that the Department of Homeland Security had undermined his authority to arrest illegal immigrants on the street. Still, Arpaio has an agreement with DHS that permits him to check the immigration status of all of his inmates and turn over anyone undocumented to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.