Sheriff Joe Arpaio is guilty. Guilty- there’s no way around it. It doesn’t matter whether you lean towards the left or the right; a pardon is an admission of guilt, that is a fact. When the President of the United States pardons someone, they are acknowledging that the person did commit a crime, but are sparing them from a prison sentence and/or commuting their time. This brings us to President Donald Trump’s controversial pardoning of Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Arpaio’s pardon has caused quite the stir (as it should). In order to understand the frustration coming from both sides of the political spectrum -- especially from Latinx Americans -- we need to get a better picture of this guy, and nothing paints a better picture (or waves a giant red flag) than the $142 million lawsuits against Arpaio that come straight out of taxpayer’s pockets. Lawsuits against the former sheriff include human rights violations complaints and wrongful death suits. Not only has he shown no regard for human life and the treatment of those in his custody, but also has he shown an incredible disregard for the rule of law. He illegally stopped drivers for false infractions strictly because they were Latinx, and refuses to stop harassing Latinx drivers, even after a court order was given. In 2011, the freaking Justice Department accused Arpaio and his staff for discriminatory and unfair treatment against Latinxs. Two years later, a federal judge ruled that he along with deputies under his command violated the constitutional rights of Latinx people. Arpaio is a proud advocate of deporting illegal immigrants, and this passion of his has led to dozens of discriminatory and likely illegal immigration raids and “random” traffic stops. A photograph taken by the Tea Party in Tempe, Arizona perfectly sums up Arpaio’s attitude towards immigrants. In the picture, he stands in front of a baseball field, American flags waving in the background, a stern expression on his face, and a sign that reads,
In July, Arpaio was held in criminal contempt, which basically means the man had not even been sentenced yet, when Trump swooped in and pardoned him. Mr. Arpaio is the worst example of what American law enforcement has to offer, and yet a gleaming portrait of the horrors of those meant to protect us. He is a man who has racially targeted Latinxs, forced people serving time to have their bunks in blazing Phoenix heat, and essentially ran a labor camp in the prisons he oversaw. Despite all of this, the President of The United States still said: “ya know what, its cool”.
By pardoning Sheriff Arpaio, this President is saying that his actions are forgivable, or at least palatable. He has essentially put the safety and security of Latinxs at risk for the sake of releasing a man who has repeatedly shown discriminatory bias against the same citizens he’s meant to protect. Instead of offering a sense of comfort for the people under his presidency, Trump has flipped a proverbial middle finger to the Latinx population, who he already does not have the best record with.
Trump attempted to normalize his absurd choice for exercising his powers by mentioning President Obama’s commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. Contrary to the president’s belief, routine discrimination in law enforcement is not the same as leaking government information. For those who need more convincing, differences between these two pardons lie in the very way they’re publicized. Traditionally, Presidential pardons are hush-hush, and very lowkey. A President does not brag (like Trump did at his recent rally) about who they pardon. A President understands that it is a delicate matter that in some aspects override the judiciary system and show some respect by not flaunting their political power like a new impressive trick. Look at it this way: a President pardoning someone is like a parent taking a child out of time out. They were in that time out for a reason right? What sensical parent brags about the fact that they managed to get their child out of a time-out? I mean doesn't the fact that they were in the time out in the first place raise eyebrows??
He broke tradition by commenting on his pardon and has gone on to ignore the actual issue at hand here. The same issues we saw play out on the national stage- from his ban on trans people serving in the military, to not being able to condemn Neo Nazis and going as far as saying they are on the same moral plane as anti-hate protesters. Whenever asked about the President’s motives, many people on the right simply point back to politics. It's all for the “base” they say. Banning people from service because of their gender identity? For the base. Not calling out racists by name? For the base. Pardoning a man who has terrorized parts of Arizona’s Latinx community for years? For the damn base.
We may never be sure what is in the heart of Donald Trump (or if he's even got one in the first place) but we do know that he is willing to be appealing to transphobes, bigots, and power-abusive racists just to gain a political foothold. He is putting himself above party, country, values and everything else we hold dear. When President Trump does these things, he shows his true colors. This pardoning was not the first and likely not the last time that President trump has let the Latinx community down. It accentuates the failures in our justice system not once, but twice. The first time when a man like Joe Arpaio was enabled to routinely show prejudice while holding a position in law enforcement, and the second when President Trump was able to look over this discriminatory behavior and still sleep at night. It is yet another toxic decision from someone who does not recognize he has the power to unite a country and instead chooses to divide it further. By pardoning Sheriff Arpaio, Trump sent a clear message: he knows exactly what kind of man Joe Arpaio is, and he is okay with it.