President Donald Trump suggested to the crowd gathered for a campaign-style rally in Phoenix, Arizona Tuesday night that he may pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a former anti-immigrant law enforcement official who was found guilty of racially profiling Latinos and other immigrants during his tenure.
“Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Trump teasingly asked his audience at the Phoenix Convention Center. “He should have had a jury, but you know what? I’ll make a prediction. I think he’ll be just fine. Okay? But, but I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy, is that alright? But Sheriff Joe can feel good.”
Trump later claimed that his harsh anti-immigration proposals were akin to “liberating” Americans from undocumented immigrants. “The people of Arizona know the deadly and heart breaking consequences of illegal immigration, the lost lives, the drugs, the gangs, the cartels, the crisis of smuggling and trafficking, MS-13,” Trump added. “We’re throwing them out so fast, they never got thrown out of anything like this. We are liberating towns out on Long Island. We’re liberating. Can you imagine in this day and age, in this day and age in this country, we are liberating towns. This is like from a different age.”
Earlier in the day, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president would not use Tuesday’s rally to pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, however. The sheriff was also not invited to the rally. The so-called “toughest sheriff in America,” who was found guilty of criminal contempt of the court late last month, could be sentenced to prison for demonstrating “flagrant disregard” of a federal judge’s order to stop racially profiling Latinos in his state.
Trump once claimed “I love Hispanics” on Cinco De Mayo, but pardoning Arpaio would be an incredibly tone deaf move that fails to show his love for Latinos in the state of Arizona. As a former sheriff, Arpaio has intentionally made lives difficult for immigrants by routinely detaining suspected undocumented immigrants to turn over to federal immigration authorities for potential deportation proceedings. Both Arpaio and his deputies have indiscriminately detained immigrant parents and children and other people of Latino origin for hours without a warrant. He has also humiliated people in detention by subjecting them to wear pink underwear and making them stay in outdoor detention facilities in the triple-digit heat. What’s more, Arpaio’s racial profiling lawsuit has cost taxpayers almost $56 million since 2007.
The president won’t be doing himself any favors in Arizona if he goes through with the pardon. A recent poll by the Phoenix-based polling group OH Predictive Insights, which surveyed 1,065 Arizonans from Friday to Sunday, more than half of residents don’t want the president to pardon Arpaio.