When a judge found former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio guilty of contempt of court after he failed to comply with a court order to end traffic patrols that targeted immigrants and Latinos, many of those directly affected by his policies celebrated. For decades, Arpaio enacted controversial policing methods that targeted and harmed communities of color. And even after US District Judge G. Murray issued a preliminary injunction that ordered him to stop lawfully detaining Latino drivers in 2011, he allowed the racial profiling to continue. Two weeks after a judge found Arpaio guilty, President Donald Trump told Fox News that he’s “seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio.”
“He has done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration,” Trump stated. “He’s a great American patriot and I hate to see what has happened to him… 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 crime and saved lives. He doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.”
Reportedly, Trump will decide whether or not to pardon Arpaio in the next few days. The news comes on the heels of a tragic, racially motivated attack that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia. Following a “Unite the Right” rally – a gathering of white supremacists aiming to “take back America” – on Friday, a group came together to counter-protest the following day when 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. allegedly plowed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of people, killing Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 others. Several other troubling confrontations took place, including a group of white supremacists beating 20-year-old Deandre Harris. He had eight staples in his head, a broken wrist, and a chipped tooth.
Initially, Trump condemned “hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides,” instead of calling it what it was: a racist attack carried out by neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and Ku Klux Klan members. It took him until today to mention the real culprit. “Racism is evil, and those who caused violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” he said.
But the fact that Trump’s willing to pardon Arpaio – who racially targeted people of color – shows that his commitment to unity and to disavowing hate is just lip service. Online, many are outraged that he’d let Arpaio off the hook given the tragic events that just took place.
A judge is set to sentence Arpaio on October 5. He may spend up to six months in jail.