President Donald Trump’s pardon of former sheriff Joe Arpaio has sparked criticism and has many claiming that the move was an assault on the rule of law.
Arpaio, former sheriff of Maricopa County, was an early and outspoken supporter of Trump. Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt last month after failing to obey a judge’s order to stop racially profiling and detaining Latinos on suspicion of their immigration status.
In 1992, Arpaio created a Tent city to house inmates in Army surplus tents. The un-air-conditioned tents were described as a “concentration camp” by Arpaio himself. All inmates in the tent city had been convicted of low-level, non-violent crimes.
Along with forcing inmates to endure Arizona’s heat (which climbed to 145 degrees one summer), he also required them to wear pink underwear underneath their uniforms. They were sent to work on chain gangs, burying bodies at cemeteries and digging up weeds.
Maricopa County jails lost their federal health accreditation. In 2008, a federal judge found that the jail’s insufficient food supply, unsanitary conditions, poor medical care and lack of supervision violated the rights of pre-trial detainees.
The president hinted at the pardon at his most recent political rally in Arizona, which was paid for by his 2020 reelection campaign.
Trump’s move to pardon Arpaio, which came as Hurricane Harvey was making landfall, has many up in arms over the president’s undermining of the law.
Preventing the courts form sanctioning a sheriff who had broken the law is “breaking the basic structure of the legal order,” says Noah Feldman, a Harvard Law School professor.
The Friday night announcement of the pardon sent social media into a frenzy.
“@POTUS’s pardon of Joe Arpaio, who illegally profiled Latinos, undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law,” said Senator John McCain. McCain released a statement condemning the president’s pardon.
The pardon also drew criticism from The National Immigration Law Center, Congressman Beto O’Rourke, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Jeff Flake and others in the political sphere.