Equal Voice News

Civil Rights and Political Leaders Decry Trump’s Pardon of Joe Arpaio

August 25, 2017

Brad Wong
By Brad Wong
Communications Manager

Political, civil rights and community leaders nationwide are condemning President Donald Trump’s late Aug. 25 pardon of Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff for Maricopa County, Arizona.

Joe Arpaio

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, seen on Sept. 16, 2007, shows off vehicles advertising a hotline to report undocumented immigrants in Phoenix. Photo by Larry Fehr-Snyder of the Arizona Republic

Arpaio, 85, has faced numerous legal issues, including what amounted to racial profiling of Latinos in the Phoenix area during immigration sweeps by his deputies.

A U.S. judge had convicted him for disobeying an order to end traffic patrols specifically aimed at immigrants, according to The Associated Press. He was scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 5.

For years, Arpaio’s actions have prompted outrage from civil rights leaders, especially in Phoenix’s Latino community. As the nation processes the pardon, issued late on a Friday, here are reactions, as collected by Equal Voice News and The Associated Press:

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights:

“Instead of a dog whistle, President Trump picked up a bull horn and let out a hateful shout tonight when he pardoned someone who personifies the same bigotry and intolerance we witnessed in Charlottesville. For more than two decades, Sheriff Arpaio terrorized and profiled Arizona’s Latino citizens, was finally voted out of office, and was convicted for failing to follow a court order to cease his unlawful, racist policing.

trump pardon

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, is joined on Jan. 26, 2016 by then Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio during a new conference in Marshalltown, Iowa. AP Photo by Mary Altaffer

…This pardon sends a dangerous message that a law enforcement officer who abused his position of power and defied a court order can simply be excused by a president who himself clearly does not respect the law.”

Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona (which works with Latinos and immigrants):

“President Trump’s reckless decision to pardon Joe Arpaio, a convicted criminal with a legacy of racist police tactics, along with his cruel threat to kill DACA and upend the lives of a 800,000 Dreamers, are shameful affirmations of the president’s low regard for immigrants and ethnic minorities….We will overcome Trump’s dark and vengeful agenda in defense of human respect and dignity.”

National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO):

“As a leadership organization that represents the nation’s more than 6,100 Latino elected and appointed officials, we know firsthand how important it is that Americans have trust in our judicial system, the rule of law, and the individuals tasked with enforcing them.

…NALEO and its Latino leadership will not stay silent as our community is attacked and the foundation of our democracy is undermined through this executive intervention.  We will continue to stand up for the rights of Latinos and all Americans, and to combat any policies and actions that aim to divide instead of unite the nation.”

tent jail

Inmates gather next to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on June 23, 2012, as he walks through a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office jail called “Tent City” in Phoenix. AP Photo by Matt York

United We Dream (an immigrant youth-led social justice organization):

“Pardoning Arpaio is pardoning white supremacy.”

Derrick Johnson, interim president and CEO of the NAACP:

“For decades, Arpaio used fear, cruelty and tyranny to advance his own political ambitions at the deaths and suffering of countless people of color….By pardoning Arpaio, Trump has endorsed Arpaio’s abhorrent behavior and has opened the gates for other bigots to follow in his footsteps.

We acknowledge that the President has broad powers to pardon convicted criminals, but providing a presidential pardon should only be reserved for those who are truly apologetic for their crimes, not those who, if given the chance, would gladly commit those crimes again. Arpaio’s rule as sherriff was cruel and crime ridden, and the NAACP will continue to fight against people who share his hateful ideologies.”

Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund):

“In a craven and gratuitous abuse of presidential power, Donald Trump issued a Friday-night pardon to an adjudicated discriminator and disgraced former sheriff, Joe Arpaio. Apparently cognizant of how utterly inappropriate the pardon would be, Trump stated on Tuesday night that he would not pardon Arpaio that night to avoid ‘controversy.’

protest Phoenix courthouse

Phoenix residents Raul Cordero and Franklyn Olivieri stand in front of the federal courthouse on July 6, 2017 in Phoenix. AP Photo by Angie Wang

So he waited until Friday night, traditionally the night politicians bury their most embarrassing revelations to avoid weekday attention in the news. In this case, the embarrassment factors are legion, but the obvious disrespect for the rule of law – Arpaio was convicted of contempt of federal court orders – surely leads the list of reasons this pardon was buried on a Friday night.”

Cecillia Wang, an ACLU attorney who helped press the racial profiling case against Arpaio:

Trump’s pardon “is a presidential endorsement of racism.” She says Trump “has acted in support of illegal, failed immigration enforcement practices that target people of color and have been struck down by the courts.”

Angelica Salas, Executive Director for CHIRLA (Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles): 

“For a President who brags about his law-and-order pedigree, this is his most hypocritical action thus far.

By pardoning Sheriff Arpaio, the president has sided with white supremacists and law-breaking bigots leaving little room for compassion, empathy and mercy for millions of hard-working immigrants who have been victimized in Arizona and elsewhere in the U.S.

Even with a presidential pardon, the legacy of Sheriff Arpaio will always be clouded with spite, hate and bigotry and so is the accumulating legacy of this president.”

James Garcia, playwright and social justice advocate in Arizona:

“Trump’s pardon of Arpaio is a pardon of racism in America. Arpaio may have escaped sentencing, but he and Trump will not escape the judgement of the good and moral among us who still makeup a majority of the American people.”

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (a coalition of civil rights organizations):

“During Arpaio’s 24-year tenure as sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona, he terrorized Latino communities, often detaining individuals without a warrant or criminal charge and in detestable jail conditions. Arpaio used the power and resources of his role to systematically discriminate against immigrants and he violated the constitutional rights of the people he was sworn to serve and protect.

President Trump’s disregard for the rule of law and the judiciary continues his dangerous pattern of placing himself above and beyond democratic systems of justice.”

Gonzalo de la Melena, Jr., president and CEO of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce:

“The president’s pardon today of ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was criminally convicted for ignoring a federal court order, is a travesty of justice and throwback to an era in our state that the overwhelming majority of Arizonans have left behind. President Trump’s action is an insult to Arpaio’s victims, and anyone who believes in the core American principle that no one is above the law.”

Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America’s Voice Education Fund (America’s Voice supports immigration reform):

“Here’s a shock: the North Koreans are lobbing missiles; Mueller is ramping up the Russia investigation; and Hurricane Harvey is devastating the Texas coast. Time for Trump to focus on what is important: handing a get out of jail free card to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a worthy member of the white nationalist, anti-immigrant, law breaking crowd that is working hard to make America crater again. Giving amnesty to Arpaio after all that he has done is a serious affront to American values.”

Sameera Hafiz, advocacy director for We Belong Together (part of the National Domestic Workers Alliance):  

“With his first presidential pardon, Trump disgracefully pardoned Arpaio, who notoriously targeted and profiled communities of color in Arizona. Those same communities mounted and won a campaign to oust Arpaio from his position as sheriff. They sought justice, with the law on their side, and ended Arpaio’s reign.

Since the launch of Trump’s campaign he has shown us who he is through his hateful rhetoric demeaning people of color, women, individuals with disabilities and countless others.”


Brad Wong is news editor for Marguerite Casey Foundation‘s Equal Voice News.This summary of reactions to Joe Arpaio’s pardon has been updated since it was first posted.

Civil Rights and Political Leaders Decry Trump’s Pardon of Joe Arpaio