Say goodbye to the dog whistle politics of President Trump. Two weeks after his disastrous handling of Charlottesville, where he didn’t outright condemn white nationalists, the president found it fitting to pardon Joe Arpaio, the controversial Arizona sheriff known for discriminating and violating the civil rights of people of color.
For Latinxs, who bore the brunt of Arpaio’s hateful tactics for more than two decades, the move is more than a slap in the face. It's an open endorsement of white supremacy. After all, the sheriff was at the heart of what a Justice Department expert called “the most egregious racial profiling in the United States” he had ever witnessed.
Pardoning Arpaio should be a reminder that the president of the United States is openly endorsing the profiling people of color and a right-wing, anti-immigrant agenda that no other commander-in-chief has followed. In other words, this presidential pardon is a disgrace in a month full of disgraceful moments.
It was expected that Trump would announce he is pardoning the so-called “America’s toughest sheriff” since he first floated the idea in an interview with Fox News earlier this month.
“I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio,” he said. “He has done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration. He’s a great American patriot and I hate to see what has happened to him.”
The White House released a statement announcing the pardon Friday night, hours before a Category 4 hurricane hit U.S. soil and right after news broke President Trump issued a directive to the Department of Defense, instructing them to ban transgender people from the military.
The statement read, “Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration. 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 Arpaio is far from being a worthy candidate or a patriot.
If you haven’t heard his name, this is the time to familiarize yourself with the man who has terrorized people of color in the state of Arizona with little impunity and who has sided himself with anti-immigrant, nativist politicians for decades.
Arpaio was in power for 24 years as the sheriff of Maricopa County before he lost the election in November 2016 and the reason Trump is pardoning is that the former sheriff was found guilty of criminal contempt of court in late July.
The court found he defied a 2011 judge order that banned him from racially profiling Latinxs during his department’s neighborhood sweeps and turning them over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Border patrol officials.
In other words, the "worthy candidate" thought himself to be above the law and violated the conditions imposed by a judge in his quest to hunt people of color.
His sentence was expected to come down in October, and he risked going to jail for six months. However, thanks to the president, Arpaio won’t see the inside of a cell.
While he has been spared, the same can’t be said for the thousands of immigrants who lived under concentration camp-like conditions in Tent City, Arpaio’s jail for “illegal aliens,” for more than two decades. Saying that the prison was like a concentration camp is no exaggeration. Inmates were often in chain gangs, fed only twice a day to save costs, and went without relief from the scorching Arizona temperatures that at times could hover around 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
And he gets to live the rest of his days touting that he was pardoned by the man who is supposed to look out for the well-being of everyone in the U.S., while his victims have had their lives ruined forever.
It's not only Latinx immigrants or U.S. citizens who were Arpaio's casualties. Those who have to live with the consequences of his policies include the victims of more than 400 sex crimes who didn't see justice because the sheriff was too busy going after immigrants. Arpaio put so many resources into racially profiling Latinxs that sexual abuse cases were often poorly investigated — or not investigated at all.
So much for "protecting the public," like Trump suggested he did.
It’s despicable that President Trump decided to pardon Arpaio, but it isn’t surprising. Like Trump, the former sheriff was one of the most prominent supporters of the conspiracy theory alleging President Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.
While Trump begrudgingly abandoned the birther theory during the 2016 presidential campaign, Arpaio continues to support his candidacy as he had done since early 2016. In return, he gets to have his record scrapped and his freedom secured by the man in the Oval Office.
It's disgusting to see that the man will never see justice. If you haven't caught up after reading this, Trump's decision to pardon a man who violated the civil rights of people of color is his most egregious endorsement of white supremacy and racism yet.