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Should Trump Pardon AZ Sheriff Arpaio?

by Countable | 8.21.17

All eyes are on Phoenix this week, especially those of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Trump plans to hold a campaign-style rally in Arizona on Tuesday evening, and there’s been talk that he could pardon the former Maricopa Sheriff during it.

Already a hot-button issue in a state known for its heat, further raising the temperature is that this is the President’s first post-Charlottesville rally—and that the person he’s considering pardoning was sentenced for targeting a minority group. The mayor of Phoenix has asked Trump to postpone the rally, and multiple groups, and organizers are planning protests.

First, let’s meet the sheriff who cracked down on illegal immigrants who now, himself, is in legal jeopardy.

Who is Joe Arpaio?

Arpaio had earned a reputation as "America’s toughest sheriff" but got into legal trouble in recent years. As the L.A. Times explained, “Arpaio was recently found guilty of contempt of court for defying a judge’s order to stop racial profiling of Latinos and turning detainees over to federal immigration officials during his tenure in office.” He is due to be sentenced on October 5th and faces up to six months in jail.

Even before his conviction, Arpaio was a controversial figure in a county known for its large number of immigrants, both legal and not. As Fox News explained, the sheriff’s "widely publicized tactics included forcing inmates to wear pink underwear and housing them in desert tent camps where temperatures often climbed well past 100 degrees Fahrenheit. He also controversially brought back chain gains, including a voluntary chain gang for women prisoners."

Trump, however, never found Arpaio’s tactics controversial.

In an interview with Fox News on August 13th, the President said, "I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio. 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 President then asked, “Is there anyone in local law enforcement who has done more to crack down on illegal immigration than Sheriff Joe? He has protected people from crimes and saved lives. He doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.”

Arpaio, when reached for comment, told Fox News, "I am happy he understands the case. I would accept the pardon because I am 100 percent not guilty."

Pardons – of anyone, at any time in a president’s tenure – can cause political headaches. The current political atmosphere, however, makes this one especially migraine-inducing.

The Rally After The Rally

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton is not happy about Trump’s rally, which the President announced a day after he blamed the violence in Charlottesville on "both sides."

"I am disappointed that President Trump has chosen to hold a campaign rally as our nation is still healing from the tragic events in Charlottesville," Stanton said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "It is my hope that more sound judgment prevails and that he delays his visit."

After the President’s comments comparing racist protestors with those who rallied against them, multiple people and agencies accused the President of being racist himself. Because Arpaio targeted undocumented and illegal immigrants – and was sentenced for it – critics have said pardoning him would amount to an endorsement of racism.

"If President Trump is coming to Phoenix to announce a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, then it will be clear that his true intent is to enflame emotions and further divide our nation," Stanton said.

ACLU Deputy Legal Director, Cecillia Wang, was more blunt: "President Trump would be literally pardoning Joe Arpaio’s flagrant violation of federal court orders that prohibited the illegal detention of Latinos," she told the Washington Post. “He would undo a conviction secured by his own career attorneys at the Justice Department. Make no mistake: This would be an official presidential endorsement of racism.”

What do you think? Is it too soon to pardon Arpaio? Or should he never be pardoned? Should the President postpone his Phoenix rally? Hit the Take Action button, and comment below.

(Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons)

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