(CNSNews.com) – If President Trump pardons former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, it “would be an official presidential endorsement of racism,” the American Civil Liberties Union said on Monday.
Arpaio, now 85 years old, is famous for his tough stand on illegal immigration. He was convicted two weeks ago of criminal contempt for violating a court order instructing him to stop detaining people suspected of being in the country illegally.
Fox News interviewed Trump on Sunday at his club in Bedminster, N.J.
“I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio,” Fox quoted the president as saying. “He has done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration. He’s a great American patriot, and I hate to see what has happened to him.”
Trump reportedly said the pardon could happen in the next few days.
On Tuesday morning, Trumped retweeted the Fox News “exclusive,” which read: “President Trump 'seriously considering' a pardon for ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio.”
ACLU Deputy Legal Director Cecillia Wang issued a statement, warning Trump not to do it:
“President Trump would be literally pardoning Joe Arpaio’s flagrant violation of federal court orders that prohibited the illegal detention of Latinos. He would undo a conviction secured by his own career attorneys at the Justice Department,” Wang said.
“Make no mistake: This would be an official presidential endorsement of racism.”
Arpaio stumped for Donald Trump during the campaign and spoke on Trump’s behalf at the Republican National Convention in July 2016. “We are more concerned with the rights of illegal aliens and criminals than we are with protecting our own country,” Arpaio said at the time. “That must change.”
The crowd responded with chants of “Build the wall.”
In March 2009, the Obama Justice Department opened an investigation of Arpaio's office for allegedly discriminating against people who came to the country illegally.
In December 2011, the Obama Justice Department found that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office "engaged in a policy of stopping, detaining, and investigating persons of Hispanic ancestry based on their race, in traffic and during worksite raids; failed to provide language access assistance to Hispanic jail inmates with Limited English Proficiency; and unlawfully retaliated against individuals who complained about or criticized MCSO’s practices."
Various lawsuits ensued, and in October 2013, a federal court in Arizona issued an injunction, ordering Arpaio's office to change its law enforcement practices. The court also appointed an independent monitor to oversee implementation of the injunction.
This past July, a federal court found Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt for defying the court order to stop profiling Latinos in Maricopa County.
The former sheriff faces six months in jail when he’s sentenced in October.