Trump grants his first presidential pardon to ex-sheriff who cracked down on undocumented immigrants

by Wareez Odunayo

 

US President, Donald Trump has spared his political ally, former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America”, after he was convicted of criminal contempt in a case involving his department’s racial profiling policy.

The White House in a statement said, the 85-year-old ex-sheriff was a “worthy candidate” for a presidential pardon. Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.

Arpaio’s pardon came three days after a rally in Phoenix at which the president signaled his readiness to absolve the contempt of court conviction. It was Trump’s first pardon as president.
“So was Sheriff Joe was convicted for doing his job?” Trump asked supporters at Tuesday’s rally. “I’ll make a prediction. I think he’s going to be just fine, OK.”

Mr Arpaio, who lost a re-election bid in Arizona’s Maricopa County in November after 24 years in office, was known for his crackdown on illegal immigrants and investigating Trump’s claims questioning former President Barack Obama’s citizenship. “I have to thank the President for what he has done, that’s for sure. He’s a big supporter of law enforcement,” Mr Arpaio said after he was pardoned.

Controversy Trails Arpaio Release
According to American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director, Cecilia Wang said, “Once again, the President has acted in support of illegal, failed immigration enforcement practices that target people of colour and that have been struck down by the courts,”

President of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and ex head of the US Justice Department’s civil rights division, Vanita Gupta said in a statement that the pardon sent “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”.

Senator Chuck Schumer also expressed his dissatisfaction over Mr Trump’s decision at a time when the country is facing a major natural disaster.

Why Donald Trump Pardoned Joe Arpaio
President Trump is a fan of Arpaio’s because Arpaio is a fan of his and an early supporter. Trump probably likes Arpaio because the former sheriff represents a version of what the President would like to be a successful American authoritarian. Earlier this month, in a conversation with Fox News, Trump called Arpaio “an outstanding sheriff” and “a great American patriot.”

Mr. Trump and Mr. Arpaio became linked during the 2016 campaign for their like-minded views on immigration.
He attended many of Trump’s rallies and was one of the speakers at the Republican National Convention, where he said “my most important mission is to elect Donald Trump”.

At some point, he was considered as contender for Mr Trump’s homeland security secretary. And now Mr Trump has granted a presidential pardon to Mr Arpaio.

Who is Joe Arpaio?
Mr Arpaio served as sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona for 24 years, from 1993 to 2016.
During his reign in office, he became renowned for his very strict view on immigration and large-scale sweeps to round up illegal immigrants. Arpaio was known for opening an outdoor jail called Tent City, which he described as a “concentration camp”.

Paul Penzone, current Arizona sheriff, has announced that he’ll be closing the jail later this year. But Mr. Arpaio was very proud of the prison, and always handed out signed pairs of the pink underwear inmates were required to wear as souvenirs, including on one occasion to the Estonian President.

Case Against Arpaio
He was convicted on July 31 by US District Judge Susan Bolton, who ruled he had willfully violated a 2011 injunction barring his officers from stopping and detaining Latino motorists solely on suspicion that they were in the country illegally. Mr Arpaio admitted to inadvertently disobeying the court order but said his behaviour did not meet a criminal standard.

He believes that his prosecution was politically motivated by the Obama administration to undermine his re-election bid. Mr Arpaio had been scheduled to be sentenced on October 5 and faced a fine and maximum sentence of six months in jail.

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