Paul Babeu

Pinal Sheriff Paul Babeu, shown in Oracle, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu’s opinion of the state of the border and the administration’s policies was in high demand Tuesday as he testified before the House Committee on the Judiciary.

The Arizona sheriff, known for his hardline stance on border security and illegal immigration, was one of four witnesses to testify during a hearing titled “Examining the adequacy and enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws.”

Pinal County is about 85 miles north of the border, but Babeu says a lot of the smuggling funnels through his county.

As proof, he said his office led a multiagency investigation that led to a $3 billion cartel drug bust and netted 76 arrests and 108 weapons seized.

“This is on American soil,” he said. “As sheriffs, where our primary job is answering 911 calls, how on earth did we get to this place?”

Since Babeu was first elected as sheriff in 2008, he has been critical of the Obama administration on border issues and illegal immigration.

On Tuesday he took issue with what he called a “mass prison break,” referring to the release of certain Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees starting in 2013.

That year, ICE released 36,007 convicted criminal immigrants who are facing deportation. The federal data was first disclosed by the Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative group that advocates for less immigration.

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As of September 2014, 16 percent had been arrested again for subsequent offenses, and 1,000 had been again convicted, Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the center, testified on Tuesday, based on government records given to Sen. Chuck Grassley last month January.

Besides trying to figure out how to pronounce Babeu’s last name, most Republican lawmakers in the committee thanked him for being an eyewitness to what happens at the border.

Democratic members questioned the sheriff’s character by bringing up a protest of unaccompanied minors last July in Oracle that activists say Babeu incited by disclosing the location of where the government was planning to take the youths.

Lawmakers also brought up his 2010 appearance on the Tennessee-based “Political Cesspool,” a “pro-white” radio program. To which Babeu responded that talking with someone doesn’t mean he subscribes to their beliefs or political views.

Contact reporter Perla Trevizo at ptrevizo@tucson.com or 520-573-4213. On Twitter: @Perla_Trevizo