President Donald Trump pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio last week, ushering in a wave of criticism. ABC News reports that Arpaio was convicted last month for defying a 2011 federal court order to stop detaining individuals based on their immigration status. His sentencing was set for October 5.
The pardon is largely viewed as an attack on the Latinx community.
“Arpaio willfully defied a court order for racially profiling Latinos and now is getting away with it –- a very dangerous precedent,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement following the president’s announcement. “The pardon will foster divisions in our country at a time when we need healing. No doubt anti-immigrant extremists will celebrate this decision, but it is a sad day for Americans who care about justice, equality and strengthening our social fabric.”
The United States criminal justice system has strict guidelines in place. The Eighth Ammendment, for example, gives criminal defendants the right to reasonable bail and the right to not be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. Presidential pardons are also included in the constitution, allowing presidents to “have Power to grant Reprices and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”
According to Huffington Post, the White House praised Arpaio for his years of service in the announcement of his pardon.
“Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration,” the White House said in a statement read. “Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is a worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”
But many critics would not agree.
Huffington Post reports that Arpaio served as sheriff from 1993 to 2016. In 2011, the sheriff was under investigation by the Department of Justice, and they concluded that there was evidence of Arpaio engaging in racial profiling and other discriminatory practices. The Justice Department found that his officers used racial slurs such as “wetbacks” and “Mexican bitches,” and that under his jurisdiction, Latinx drivers were four to nine times as likely to get pulled over than non-Latinx drivers.
In a statement to Huffington Post, former chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division Vanita Gupta said that actions like this stand for much more than just a president exercising their power.
“If President Trump uses his power to pardon a discredited law enforcement official who persistently engaged in illegal racial profiling of the Latino community, it will not be a dog whistle to the so-called ‘alt right’ and white supremacists, but a bull horn,” she said.
Photo by Gage Skidmore