Arpaio was found guilty in July of violating a court order to cease racially profiling Latinos for detention based on suspicions about immigration status.
Trump relieved a valuable political ally of the criminal charge: Arpaio endorsed him for President way back in January 2016, and Trump has said Arpaio’s harsh detention tactics — including housing hundreds of inmates in the intense Arizona sun and relying heavily on solitary confinement — were models for the nation.
The editorial board of the Arizona Republic, the paper that most closely followed Arpaio’s 24-year career as sheriff, eviscerated the decision.
“This erases any doubt about whether Trump meant to empower them after the violence in Charlottesville,” the board’s editorial read, referring to “immigration hardliners and nationalists in Trump’s base.”
“Arpaio is their darling,” it continued. “Arpaio is now back on his pedestal thanks to their president.”
“Donald Trump’s pardon elevates Arpaio once again to the pantheon of those who see institutional racism as something that made America great,” the editorial board added. “Many will characterize it as a slap to the Latino community – and it is. The vast majority of Latinos in Arizona are not undocumented, yet they all fell under heightened scrutiny as Arpaio honed his image.”
Arpaio was known for his extreme treatment of undocumented immigrants. Aside from his pattern of racially profiling motorists who he and his deputies suspected were undocumented, he once segregated undocumented immigrants in his outdoor “Tent City” detention center, surrounding them with electrified fence.
“This is a population of criminals more adept perhaps at escape,” he told reporters at the time, according to the Associated Press. “But this is a fence they won’t want to scale because they risk receiving quite a shock, literally.”
“Arpaio was a lawman who scorned his duty to treat all people equally,” the Arizona Republic wrote Friday. “He made it law enforcement policy to profile people based on their heritage.”
The editorial concluded: “By pardoning Arpaio, Trump made it clear that institutional racism is not just OK with him. It is a goal. That should trouble every American who believes that our duty as a nation is to continue working on behalf of equal justice.”