Rights groups, immigration activists, legal experts, politicians, and others swiftly denounced President Donald Trump's decision to pardon the notorious former sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was awaiting sentencing after being convicted of criminal contempt for violating a court order that mandated he and his deputies stop racially profiling Latinos in Maricopa County, Arizona.
"This pardon sends a dangerous message that a law enforcement officer who abused his position of power and defied a court order can simply be excused by a president who himself clearly does not respect the law."
—Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
"Trump's pardon of Arpaio is an official endorsement on racial profiling and the abuse of immigrants and people of color," said United We Dream executive director Cristina Jimenez. "It is also a slap in the face of the people in Maricopa County who voted a racist, anti-immigrant sheriff out of his job."
"Instead of a dog whistle, President Trump picked up a bullhorn," said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "This pardon sends a dangerous message that a law enforcement officer who abused his position of power and defied a court order can simply be excused by a president who himself clearly does not respect the law."
"Once again, the president has acted in support of illegal, failed immigration enforcement practices that target people of color and that have been struck down by the courts," American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) deputy legal director Cecillia Wang, who sought the court injunction against Arpaio, told Reuters.
Many expressed concerns about the long-term legal implications of Trump's decision.
By pardoning Sheriff Arpaio, Trump has again made clear he will use the powers of the presidency to defend racism and discrimination.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 26, 2017
Arpaio's pardon gives the middle finger to courts and the Constitution and signals total contempt for the rule of law and for human decency.
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) August 26, 2017
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) August 26, 2017
The announcment followed indications from Trump that he was considering a pardon. During a bizarre and long-winded speech in Arizona on Tuedsday night, the president said that he believed the former sheriff would be "just fine."
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had said earlier in the week that Trump would make an announcement at an "appropriate time," but the pardon was announced Friday evening, as most media attention was focused the category 4 Hurricane Harvey ravaging the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.
The White House statement said: "Throughout his time as sheriff, Arpaio continued his life's work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration," and "after more than fifty years of admirable service to our nation, he is a worthy candidate for a presidential pardon."
Following the official announcement, Trump called Arpaio a "patriot" on Twitter.
I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2017
Calling Trump "a big supporter of law enforcement," Arpaio, who has reportedly scheduled a press conference to discuss the pardon, told Reuters on Friday: "I have to thank the president for what he has done, that's for sure."
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Later on Twitter, Arpaio did just that, in addition to tweeting a link for supporters to make donations toward his legal fees.
Thank you @realdonaldtrump for seeing my conviction for what it is: a political witch hunt by holdovers in the Obama justice department!
— Joe Arpaio (@RealSheriffJoe) August 26, 2017
Serving as county sheriff for 24 years, Arpaio, who self-identifies as "America's toughest sheriff," gained national notoriety for his relentless campaign against undocumented immigrants. He has faced multiple legal battles for racially profiling Latinos, and violating county residents' constitutional rights. Although he was ousted in the election last year, Arpaio has become a prominent media and political figure, and stumped for Trump during his campaign for president.
The president's first pardon was met with strong and widespread condemnation online.
— Mijente (@ConMijente) August 26, 2017
Pardon of Arpaio is explicit embrace of the racist policing practices that leave communities fearful of very ppl who should protect & serve.
— NAACP (@NAACP) August 26, 2017
— Brennan Center (@BrennanCenter) August 26, 2017
The only thing Trump has accomplished in 7 months is state-sanctioned racism. Arpaio belongs in jail. Period.
— Angel Padilla (@AngelRafPadilla) August 26, 2017
Pardoning Arpaio is the latest instance of how @realDonaldTrump's words and actions empower racists and white supremacists.
— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) August 26, 2017
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) August 26, 2017
Presidential pardons should not be rewards for bad behavior and discrimination. Granting a pardon to Joe Arpaio is shameful and appalling.
— Sen. Al Franken (@SenFranken) August 26, 2017
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) August 26, 2017
If his first pardon is Arpaio, imagine what his last ones are going to be. Stay vigilant.
— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) August 26, 2017
A chronicle of what Joe Arpaio wrought, from Arizona journalists who covered him. Read it and weep. https://t.co/DCFNypogvF
— Lydia Polgreen (@lpolgreen) August 26, 2017