Trump Suggests He Will Pardon Racist Sheriff

I recently renewed my U.S. passport and paid an extra fee to order a passport I.D. card to carry in my wallet.

As a Latina, I worry that I could now be detained by immigration officials simply because my skin is brown. I live in Southern California and often travel to Arizona and Texas.

I fear I could be stopped on a highway or in an airport simply because of how I look. My nationality could be questioned and I want to have proof that I am an American citizen.

I shouldn’t have to do this. My family has been in the U.S. more than 125 years. My great-grandfather rode a horse from Mexico to Texas in 1890 at a time when you didn’t need a green card.

But this is Donald Trump’s America.

In a rambling Castroesque speech Tuesday night in Phoenix,Trump defended former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio who the U.S. Justice Department found engaged in systematic racial profiling of Latinos in the U.S. He was convicted in July of criminal contempt for flagrant disregard of a 2011 decision from a federal judge who had ordered Arpaio to stop immigration enforcement tactics that racially targeted Latinos.

Trump didn’t pardon Arpaio, but he implied that he would.

“I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy,” Trump said.

Trump defended the sheriff’s practices that were investigated by the U.S. Justice Department.

“Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Trump asked.

No, he was not doing his job. Racial profiling is illegal in the U.S.

Trump for all his claims of not being a racist, is supporting a man who imposed racist policies.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a rally for Donald Trump at Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution- Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic)

His statements show that in the wake of his divisive comments after the white supremacist killing of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump wants to continue to divide the nation. There are no fine people who would walk with neo-Nazis or KKK. There are not two sides to bigotry.

Here is why Arpaio is not deserving of Trump’s first pardon.

The sheriff was found guilty in July of criminal contempt for defying a judge’s order to stop racial profiling of Latinos. Labelled the “toughest sheriff in America” he has been championed by Trump for his stance on immigration.

Arpaio was elected sheriff in 1993. He lost his re-election bid in November 2016 after community groups worked to unseat him.

The U.S. Justice Department found since 2006, Sheriff Arpaio and his department “intentionally and systematically discriminated against Latinos.”

The Justice Department found that Arpaio and his deputies stopped Latinos four to nine times more often than non-Latinos and without legal justification. They also were found to mistreat Latino detainees with limited English proficiency.The sheriff’s office also filed baseless administrative actions, civil actions and criminal cases against its perceived critics in an attempt to prevent free speech.

While some would argue that law enforcement should detain people who are undocumented, Arpaio and his deputies targeted people who looked Hispanic to search for undocumented immigrants.

You can’t tell a person’s immigration status by looking at them but under Arpaio this was their way of operating.

And among the people they detained were U.S. citizens.

In one such case in 2010, Arpaio’s deputies arrested a Hispanic woman at a McDonald’s who is a U.S. citizen. Viridiana Ramirez was handcuffed and held for four hours as she pleaded with sheriffs that she was born in this country and could prove it.

In 2009, Julio Mora, a U.S. citizen, and his legal resident father, were handcuffed and held for three hours during the sheriff department’s immigration raid at a local business.

Arpaio also built a “tent city” to detain immigrants but critics said that it was inhumane to house people in the desert weather that can reach up to 120 degrees in the summer. He once compared it to a “concentration camp.”

In Arpaio’s world, all Latinos are suspect of being undocumented. This is despite the fact that more than 70 percent of people of Mexican heritage in the U.S. were born here. Another 15 percent are naturalized citizens or legal permanent residents. Around 15 percent of Latinos are undocumented.

There is no question that Arpaio’s tactics were racist, and this is who Trump would like to give his first presidential pardon.

This also would be outside of the normal pardon process overseen by the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney.

Normally, a convicted person serves time in prison, waits five years, and then applies for clemency. The pardon office also has a current backlog of thousands of cases.

Arpaio hasn’t even been sentenced yet and he could face a six month term on a misdemeanor charge. Trump pardoning him would be circumventing the process.

We know Trump isn’t one to follow the rules.

But in this case Trump’s actions to help his friend Arpaio would serve no justice.

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Teresa Puente teaches journalism at Cal State Long Beach and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project.

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