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Will Trump Pardon ‘America’s Best-Known Racial Profiler’? (Updated)

Tina Vasquez

Joe Arpaio was recently convicted of criminal contempt for disobeying a court order stemming from a racial profiling case that required him to stop targeting undocumented people.

UPDATE: Friday, August 25, 8:22 p.m.: President Donald Trump on Friday pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio following a speech on Tuesday in which he hinted at taking such an action.  “I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy,” the president said at the Phoenix rally.

President Donald Trump is holding a Tuesday rally in Phoenix, where he could pardon Arizona’s former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who once boasted it was an “honor” to be compared to the Ku Klux Klan.

This comes one week after white supremacists held a violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that resulted in the killing of anti-racist protester Heather Heyer.

Arpaio was recently convicted of criminal contempt for disobeying a court order stemming from a 2007 racial profiling case that required him to stop targeting undocumented immigrants. Allegations of racism and xenophobia have long trailed Arpaio.

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As sheriff, Arpaio was one of the state’s most vocal proponents of SB 1070, one of the most draconian, anti-immigrant laws in the country. Arpaio during his 24 years in office came under fire for mishandling sexual assault cases. From 2004 to 2007, more than 400 sexual assault cases reported to Arpaio’s office, including dozens of alleged child molestations, were not only poorly investigated, but sometimes not investigated at all, according to a 2011 Associated Press report. A retired police official told the AP that many of the victims were children of undocumented parents.

Arpaio was perhaps most notorious in Arizona for conducting workplace raids on undocumented immigrants. Noemi Romero, who was a victim of one of these raids in 2013, spoke out against the former sheriff during a Monday press call. 

Romero was taken into custody at her place of employment, detained for 60 days, and put in deportation proceedings. Romero credits the Arizona-based immigrant rights organization Puente Human Rights Movement with her release, but because of her arrest, she does not qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an immigration program that would allow her to obtain a work permit, driver’s license, and grant her reprieve from deportation, renewable every two years.

“Tuesday we are gathering to protest and to show Trump that we will not allow him to pardon white supremacy,” Romero said, referring to Puente’s counterprotest under the banner “White Supremacy Will Not Be Pardoned” outside of Trump’s rally Tuesday. “Someone like Arpaio, who has harmed many families and caused so much trauma, should not be pardoned. People like me who are victims of him should be the ones pardoned. Pardoning people like me would be correcting a wrong, but I doubt that’s something he would do.”

These sentiments were echoed by others during Monday’s press call, including Alejandra Gómez, co-director of the Arizona-based immigrant rights organization LUCHA. Gómez, whose undocumented father was targeted by Arpaio, called Arpaio’s possible pardon an “exoneration of his crimes.”

“Arpaio’s victims continue to live the horror he inflicted on Maricopa County,” Gómez said. “Under Arpaio, people were afraid to go outside, places were raided, we watched people’s faces pressed against bus windows on their way to detention. Under Trump, racists are emboldened, people of color continue to be terrorized, and families continue to be deported. Arpaio set the groundwork for Trump’s national agenda.”

Arpaio has been one of Trump’s biggest supporters, singing his praises at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Both men are deeply-entrenched with anti-immigrant hate groups.

Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), whose leaders have ties to eugenics and white supremacist organizations and whose founder, John Tanton, is credited with creating the modern anti-immigrant movement, formed the basis of Trump’s immigration policies. Various members of these anti-immigrant hate groups have attained high-ranking positions in the Trump administration. Sheriffs across the country are working closely with these groups, much like Arpaio did during his six terms.

Trump’s rally in Arizona has been condemned by Phoenix’s mayor, and advocates say Trump is only coming to Arizona to push his anti-immigrant agenda and stoke fears against immigrant communities, whom he routinely characterizes as violent criminals.

“By pardoning America’s best-known racial profiler just one week after defending neo-Nazis and white supremacists, President Trump would send the message to law enforcement that it’s acceptable to violate Latinos’ civil rights,” Cristóbal J. Alex, president of Latino Victory Project, said in a statement. “President Trump should remember that you are the company you keep. By continuing to align himself with racists and criminals like Joe Arpaio, the President has proven he doesn’t have the principles or moral authority to lead our country.”

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