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“My message is clear: If you come here and I catch you, you’re going straight to jail,” he said at the time. “We’re going to arrest any illegal who violates this new law, and I’m not going to turn these people over to federal authorities so they can have a free ride back to Mexico. I’ll give them a free ride to my jail.”

In September, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Phoenix accusing the sheriff's office of failing to turn over documents sought since March 2009 that federal prosecutors say comply with its probe of purported discrimination, unconstitutional searches and seizures, and English-only policies in his jails that discriminate against those with limited English skills.

The sheriff has described the lawsuit as “harassment,” saying thousands of pages of documents have already been turned over by his office to federal prosecutors. He said the lawsuit made it “abundantly clear that Arizona, including this sheriff, is Washington’s new whipping boy.”

Earlier this month, the sheriff announced the creation of an armed “Immigration Posse” to combat illegal immigration. Among those signing up were Hollywood actors Steven Seagal and Lou Ferrigno, along with Dick Tracy and Wyatt Earp.

Fighting Justice Department accusations that his office discriminated against illegal immigrants during arrests, Sheriff Arpaio said the civilian posse of more than 50 members gives citizens a chance to fight the problem inundating their border state.

“Law enforcement budgets are being cut and agencies are losing personnel and yet the battle to stop illegal immigration must continue,” said the sheriff, who heads the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. “Arizona is the busiest port of entry for people being smuggled in from Mexico, Latin and South America. So asking for the public’s help in this endeavor makes sense, especially given the success the posses have experienced over the years.”

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has investigated, arrested or detained more than 42,000 illegal immigrants during the past three years.