President Trump grants Arpaio clean slate

Joe Arpaio, an Arizona sheriff was given a full Presidential pardon, sparking controversy both locally and nationwide.

When President Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio on Aug. 25, shockwaves spread across Iowa and the country.

“We feel that the pardon of Arpaio is devastating,” said Veronica Fowler, the communications director for the ACLU of Iowa. “… By pardoning him, President Trump has basically endorsed lawlessness over justice. He is further dividing our community, and he is just exacerbating some of the hurt.”

Since the early 1990s, various human-rights organizations have labeled Arpaio’s unique tactics as harsh or cruel. Arpaio, a former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, faced a criminal contempt conviction in October after failing to comply with a federal court order. His department was accused of illegally detaining individuals based on suspicions that the detainees were in the country illegally.

Among his most infamous moves is the Tent City Jail, which was opened in 1993. Behind a chain link fence, hundreds of prisoners were housed in the blazing Arizona sun, clothed in striped jumpsuits and pink undergarments. Arpaio himself even boasted that this jail was similar to a concentration camp.

“He has created brutal, unconstitutional jail conditions for detainees,” Fowler said. “The kinds of things he was doing are like 15th-century law enforcement. He has done some really terrible things that affect people of all kinds of documentation status.”

The pardon has also left Latinx communities reeling. Joseph Enriquez Henry, the national vice president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, who cofounded the group’s Council 307 in Des Moines, said people need to realize that Latinos account for a large part of the American population.

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“Our immigrant community is very upset with this, as are the rest of us, and we will fight back,” Henry said. “We have been fighting back ever since the election of this president, and we will continue to stay united and push for the things that are good for Latinos and good for Americans in this country.”

Although President Trump is granted the power to pardon federal crimes through Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution, there is still bipartisan displeasure that Arpaio was granted one. Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, believes that Arpaio’s actions as a sheriff were “anti-American” and the pardon comes as a disappointment to him.

“… A pardon does not mean that a crime was not committed, and [Arpaio] clearly was committing a crime,” McCoy said. “I think the pardon is an acknowledgment that a crime did occur and that he was guilty of it, and nothing will ever change that in my mind.”

The pardon was announced as Hurricane Harvey hit shore, a move that, Emiliano Martinez, the president of Hawkeyes for DREAM Iowa, saw as a way to distract people from what he called locally substantive issues.

“I think that focusing on more substantive things is what’s going to move our communities forward, our heritage forward, and give us more efficacy in all these different issues,” Martinez said.

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