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After days of speculation, Donald Trump decided not to pardon former-Sheriff-turned-convicted-criminal Joe Arpaio last night in Phoenix, though signs suggest that clemency may still be coming.
“I think [Arpaio’s] going to be just fine,” Trump said. “I won’t [pardon him] tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy. … But Sheriff Joe can feel good.”
We’ve already written about why Trump granting “amnesty” to Arpaio would be a terrible idea — Arpaio led a reign of terror against Arizona immigrants for nearly a quarter century, and neglected all other responsibilities in order to persecute immigrants. Moreover, Arpaio is now in trouble because he refused to obey the law, and wouldn’t stop racially profiling Latinos after a judge ordered him to. Half of Arizonans in a recent poll said they would be opposed to a pardon, a number which goes up for those under the age of 54.
Editorial boards and advocates across the country have been slamming the idea of a pardon, in no uncertain terms. Below are excerpts from some of them.
[In pardoning Arpaio], the president won’t be delivering a gift of mercy on a deserving and repentant offender. He’ll reward a political friend and supporter who shares his affection for draconian immigration enforcement strategies. And he would again exhibit his own contempt for the courts by blessing a top local law enforcement officer’s defiance of a federal judge…
Arpaio was convicted not of detaining people without legal cause, but of willfully disobeying federal court orders to stop the practice. That’s no split hair. The authority of the court system is predicated upon people respecting its orders and decisions. For an elected sheriff to decide that he need not heed a court order is unacceptable, both as a matter of law and as an example for the public. If a sheriff can ignore a federal judge, why should anyone else obey such orders?…
[Trump would be] telling America that it’s permissible for the government to violate our basic civil rights simply because a sheriff wraps a “tough on crime” bow around it. Some believe that a pardon would send a message to other sheriffs around the nation whose cooperation the government seeks in its crackdown on immigrants in the country illegally, namely, that the president will support them in any potential court showdowns over immigration. But law enforcement officials cannot disregard a court order just because they — and the president — disagree with the policy at hand…
The message Trump really sends here is that the president of the United States doesn’t think court orders need to be respected. From that perspective, and from ours, pardoning Arpaio would be just another shot by Trump at the court system, and at the institutions of our democracy.
Pardoning Mr. Arpaio now would throw a bone to the president’s partisans on the racist alt-right just days after Mr. Trump fed them a juicy steak by explicitly equating the neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and Ku Klux Klansmen in Charlottesville with those who marched against them. If Mr. Trump wants to further inflame and divide America, there would be few more effective ways to do it than by granting clemency to a man whose political career was based on contempt for Latinos generally and Hispanic undocumented immigrants specifically…
Even as Mr. Trump was busy last week condoning the goons and thugs who invaded Charlottesville — there were “very fine people” among them, the president said — he was praising Mr. Arpaio for his “crackdown” on illegal immigration and saying he was seriously considering a pardon for him. “He’s a great American patriot, and I hate to see what has happened to him,” Mr. Trump said.
To say such a thing is to twist the meaning of patriotism. Mr. Arpaio, who used ethnicity as a wedge issue and delighted in humiliating the immigrants he arrested and incarcerating them in inhumane conditions, is no more a patriot than the thugs in Charlottesville are. Pardoning him would be a travesty of justice that would further discredit a presidency already stained by Mr. Trump’s words and conduct.
Invoking the presidential pardon power for this man — former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio — at this time would further shred whatever semblance of moral authority the president retains, not to mention Republican hopes of making inroads among Hispanic voters.
A pardon would also have a potentially chilling effect on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation by signaling targets of that inquiry that the president might let them off the hook, even if they refuse to cooperate…
The federal investigators found that a “wall of distrust” between a harassed Latino community and the sheriff’s department hampered police investigations. Hundreds of sexual assault and child molestation cases went unsolved where many of the victims appeared to be Latino.
Despite all this, Trump said of Arpaio: “He has protected people from crimes and saved lives. He doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.”
In fact, just the opposite is true. Latinos taken into custody were abused, and hundreds of crimes, many against children, were unsolved. This is the kind of person worthy of a pardon?
An op-ed excerpt from Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ):
Trump’s flirtation with wiping Arpaio’s dirty slate clean plays in part with his acceptance of white nationalist organizations and openly racist groups. …
Regardless of your views on immigration policy, there is no room for debate about whether or not Arpaio is worthy of a pardon. His crimes are not those for which presidential pardons were established. He is not a wrongfully convicted man, a prisoner of conscience or the victim of overly punitive sentencing laws. He’s a man who committed unlawful choices and now trembles at the thought of having to pay for them- the opposite of the hard-knuckled, no-nonsense sheriff he projected himself to be.
Finally, at Daily Kos, a Dreamer whose worksite was raided by Arpaio, leading to a felony conviction for her because she was using her mother’s ID to work in order to be able to afford DACA, wonders why Arpaio may be pardoned but she won’t be:
When President Trump says Arpaio is a “great American patriot” who has “done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration,” he’s talking about what he’s done to people like me. He’s talking about what he’s done to families like Katherine Figueroa who at age 9 watched her own parents arrested in a raid on a carwash on live television. He’s talking about Marty Atencio who Arpaio’s Sheriffs beat to death in a jail cell. Just like when he says there are “very fine people on both sides” of the protests in Charlottesville, he’s talking about nazis.
The previous Department of Justice said that Arpaio is the “most egregious case of racial profiling” investigators had ever witnessed. A judge found Arpaio guilty of continuing that profiling in contempt of court orders to stop. And he’s actually guilty of much worse.
Pardoning Arpaio would be a presidential endorsement of his racism and his flaunting of the law in pursuit of it. Whereas pardoning Arpaio’s victims would actually mean having a heart and correcting a wrong.