Last week, Donald Trump announced that he's "seriously considering" a pardon for former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, praising Arpaio as a "great American patriot." At the end of July, Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt after he violated a federal court ruling that ordered the Maricopa County's Sheriff's Office (MCSO) to end their practice of anti-immigrant racial profiling during traffic stops. This led to the wrongful detention of many people who were citizens or in the country legally.
Many speculated that Trump would pardon Arpaio during his visit to Arizona. But before Trump's rally there on Tuesday, the White House released a statement announcing that the pardon wouldn't happen that night.
That didn't keep Trump from praising Arpaio at the rally and hinting that he will pardon Arpaio at some point in the future. "Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?" Trump asked the crowd, according to NBC News. "Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?" The crowd responded with a "Pardon Joe" chant. In fact, CNN reported today that the White House has prepared the paperwork for Arpaio's pardon when Trump makes the final decision to do so.
Civil liberties groups like the ACLU, Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, and UnidosUS are on high alert. In a petition against the pardon, UnidosUS writes, "Joe Arpaio has caused great suffering to many, many Latinos and used the power of his office to intimidate those who criticized his tactics. He is a bigot, devoted to fulfilling an anti-Latino, anti-immigrant crusade and dehumanizing the Hispanic community."
Indeed, in addition to illegally detaining people based on suspicions about their immigration status, Arpaio's department allegedly assaulted a pregnant woman and forced female prisoners to sleep in their own menstrual blood.
The AP reported in 2011 that Arpaio's department failed to properly investigate over 400 sex crime cases, including attacks on children, from 2005 to 2007, when the department had a $2.7 million contract to run police services for the city of El Mirage.
According to the report, many of the victims were children of undocumented immigrants. "Officials discovered at least 32 reported child molestations—with victims as young as 2 years old—where the sheriff's office failed to follow through, even though suspects were known in all but six cases," AP revealed.
The AP talked to former and current El Mirage police officers who discovered the botched cases. Bill Louis, who was an assistant police chief at the time, told the AP that "whoever made the decision knew that illegal immigrants—who are often transient and fear the police—were unlikely to complain about the quality of investigations."
The AP also obtained police files that painted a grim picture of the consequences for the lack of response from Arpaio's department:
In April 2007, a 3-year-old girl was reported molested by her father, an illegal immigrant who cared for the child while her mother was at work. When the mother confronted her husband about the abuse, he cried and swore he'd never do it again. Yet a few days later, the mother noticed more signs of sexual abuse on her daughter and called for help. After the initial report, that help didn't come.
The ACLU warns that a pardon "would just be the latest injustice to befall the countless people wronged by his years of racism, lawlessness, and abuse."
"A Presidential pardon continues to convince the American public that President Trump upholds and validates white supremacy," the NAACP said in a statement. "A Presidential pardon clearly states that President Trump is not interested in healing the nation after a deadly white nationalist march, but instead desires to fan the flames of divisiveness."