This op-ed appeared in the Aug. 31, 2017 edition of the San Francisco Examiner.
On Aug. 25, President Donald Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County from 1993 to 2016. This pardon is inherently immoral.
This executive action comes on the heels of Trump’s odious statement about recent events in Charlottesville, Va., with him equating counter-protesters, who were touting inclusivity, with armed white supremacists and neo-Nazis chanting hate-filled comments.
What does this pardon and his comments on Charlottesville say about Trump’s views on race? What is his moral compass for the administration? Most importantly, what will we do to ensure that views on race in this country are much more inclusive, harkening back to our country’s aspirational value that all people are created equal?
The now 85-year-old Arpaio was once the self-proclaimed “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” but he should have been called “America’s Most-Criminal Sheriff” due to his continued enforcement of Arizona’s SB 1070 anti-immigration law even after it was largely stuck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Arpaio actually formed a thousand-strong, racially motivated immigration posse: Citizens were recruited to assist county deputies in frequent workplace raids and illegal traffic stops, even when there was no evidence a crime was, or had been, committed. This was a direct attack on Latinos and immigrants.
These illegal tactics were the catalyst for lawsuits filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the ACLU and the Department of Justice.
Despite this background of immoral acts and an egregious flouting of the law, Trump recently called Arpaio “a great American patriot.”
The law and the public disagree.
Arpaio failed in his re-election bid last November, after serving six terms, losing by some 10 points because of the Latino voter turnout. This was a stunning rebuke of the once-popular face of racist, draconian immigration policy.
In July, Arpaio was convicted of a misdemeanor for criminal contempt by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton. The justice wrote, “Not only did Defendant abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise.”
This pardon of Arpaio is an insult to Latinos and stands as a stark symbol of the continued assault on the rights of immigrant communities across the land — an assault that has only intensified since Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015.
As organizations that for decades have stood up for the rights of immigrants, we have seen countless stories of Latino newcomers succeeding. They work hard each day. They create businesses and jobs. They send their children to college.
Trump’s views on race forebode and all-the-more uncertain future for all of us who believe in equality, and particularly for people of color in this country.
If you deem these un-American values, we urge you to contact your federal and state political representatives to express concern at the racist tone of the administration. On a local level, please support immigrant-owned businesses. Additionally, always counter the negative discourse by expressing that equality based on ethnicity, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation is neither a liability nor an outdated concept: It is one of our nation’s greatest values and strengths.
Paulina Gonzalez is executive director of the California Reinvestment Coalition
Luis Granados is executive director of the Mission Economic Development Agency
Bea Stotzer is CEO of NEW Capital
Guillermo Mayer is president and CEO of Public Advocates
Orson Aguilar is president of The Greenlining Institute