Trump Pardons Former Sheriff Notorious for Racially Profiling Latinos

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A Friday night pardon.

President Donald Trump has pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose decades of racial profiling of Latinos sparked widespread backlash, of a misdemeanor criminal contempt of court conviction.

“Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration,” a White House statement released Friday evening read in part. “Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”

Arpaio thanked the president in a series of tweets issued an hour after the announcement. He also asked people to donate to his legal fund.

Thank you @realdonaldtrump for seeing my conviction for what it is: a political witch hunt by holdovers in the Obama justice department!

I am humbled and incredibly grateful to President Trump. I look fwd to putting this chapter behind me and helping to 

The presidential pardon comes just days after Trump hinted multiple times that he would pursue a pardon for Arpaio.

“I’ll make a prediction. I think [Arpaio]’s going to be just fine, OK? But I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy,” the president teased the audience at a Tuesday night rally in Phoenix, Arizona. “But Sheriff Joe can feel good.”

During his time as sheriff, Arpaio and his deputies routinely detained suspected undocumented immigrants to hold for potential deportation proceedings. He has detained immigrants, people of Latino origin, and even U.S. citizens for hours without a warrant. He rose to national notoriety for making people wear pink underwear and forcing detainees to stay in “Tent City,” an outdoor detention facility open year round. The jails overseen by Arpaio, who brags about being the country’s “toughest sheriff,” have alarmingly high suicide rates.

“In pardoning Joe Arpaio, Trump further clarifies his twisted view of what America should look like,” Judith Browne Dianis, the executive director of Advancement Project’s national office, said in a statement. “He envisions a country where white nationalists get a nod from the White House and rogue cops are encouraged to abuse their power and profile people of color. This move signals to police that even if the courts find them guilty of racial profiling, they will have the backing of the president of the United States. This is yet another drastic moral and leadership failure from Trump.”

Some legal experts have argued that Trump’s decision to pardon Arpaio, which essentially sends the signal that the rule of law doesn’t matter when it comes to policies affecting immigrants and Latinos, could be considered an impeachable offense.

“It’s one thing to pardon a criminal out of a sense of mercy or on the belief that he has paid his debt to society,” Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman wrote in a Bloomberg piece earlier this month. “It’s trickier when the president pardons someone who violated the law in pursuit of governmental policy, the way George H.W. Bush pardoned the Iran-Contra participants, including Oliver North. But it would be an altogether different matter if Trump pardoned Arpaio for willfully refusing to follow the Constitution and violating the rights of people inside the U.S.”

In a statement released shortly after the White House’s move to issue the pardon, a spokesperson from the Department of Justice said that Trump “exercised his lawful authority and we respect his decision.”

 

Reprinted with permission from Think Progress