PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona sheriff known nationally for his hardline stance on illegal immigration has taken the witness stand and is facing allegations that his trademark immigration sweeps amounted to racial profiling against Hispanics.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, testifying on his own behalf in a civil trial Tuesday, was asked about a statement in which he called illegal immigrants "dirty."

Arpaio says the proper context was needed to understand that statement. He says that if a person were to cross the border on foot over four days in the desert that person "could be dirty. That's the context on how I used that word."

Arpaio was without his typical bluster under questioning from lawyers for plaintiff's who say his policies are discriminatory against Latinos.

He says he has the flu and is speaking in a more hushed tone than normal, clearing his throat often.

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