Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Antonio De Loera-BrustAugust 29, 2017
In this Jan. 26, 2016 photo, then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined by Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of metro Phoenix, at a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer).In this Jan. 26, 2016 photo, then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined by Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of metro Phoenix, at a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer).  

Using the executive pardon as an end run around a court’s enforcement of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law is endorsing the persecution of a minority ethnic group. That is what happened when President Trump pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Aug. 25. This episode becomes part of the long history of the law failing to protect the Latino community from law enforcement.

The Arizona landscape that Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio patrolled bears witness to this history. Today’s border with Mexico was imposed by the force of arms and a new legal order whose laws did not apply equally. In these same deserts where Native and Mexican resistors died, brown-skinned peoples are again defying those imposed frontiers. Hundreds continue to die in the desert as a result of our immigration policies. Latino life, native and immigrant, has never meant much to the law there.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, corresponding to the height of Jim Crow laws in the South, the West saw a wave of killings and lawless violence directed at the country’s Mexican-origin people. Thousands of people were lynched in the Southwest, often with the complicity of law enforcement and the assistance of deputized posses. A generation later came equally lawless waves of mass deportation. In the 1930s, as one of the groups scapegoated for the Great Depression, over a million Mexican-origin people were rounded up and “repatriated” to Mexico. In the 1950s came Operation Wetback,” where over a million Mexican-origin people were rounded up and deported, a precedent Donald Trump cited favorably when proposing his own mass deportations. In both historical cases the deportees included hundreds of thousands of American citizens, many of whom were never able to return.

The sheriff is the personification of law enforcement behaving lawlessly.

This is the legacy of violence and oppression that Sheriff Arpaio is part of. It was the practice of his sheriff’s department to target Latino people with groundless stops, unlawful detainment and physical abuse. A U.S. District Court found those practices unconstitutional and a violation of civil rights, and ordered him to stop. He refused. The sheriff is the personification of law enforcement behaving lawlessly. It is a new chapter in an old story: the struggle of Americans of color in this country to achieve equal treatment under the law.

The irony of the story of Sheriff Arpaio is that it looked to be a turning point in this struggle. Until President Trump’s pardon, this was a rare example of the system working for the marginalized. Even if only after decades of suffering inflicted on thousands of people, justice had been done. Through years of peaceful activism, the local Latino community brought attention to the systemic and lawless discrimination practiced by the sheriff’s office. Our system of government responded. First, Sheriff Arpaio lost re-election last fall. Then he was found guilty of criminal contempt for refusing to obey the court orders to cease his discriminatory practices. The law had proved stronger than the lawman and the rights of minorities had been upheld.

The president robbed a community he is oath-bound to represent of their hard-won justice.

It was not to last. The president robbed a community he is oath-bound to represent of their hard-won justice. Sheriff Arpaio’s conviction had shown the country that all Americans are protected under the law. Consider now the magnitude of what President Trump has taken away. This is the danger of the pardon: it sends a message to those in law enforcement who would violate the civil rights of Americans of color that they have a friend in the White House. It tells the rest of us that the pursuit of justice is futile. If there is ever a conviction for a police killing of an unarmed person of color, what is to stop the president from pardoning the officer? If the families whose children have been killed by Border Patrol firing into Mexico secure justice, what is to prevent a pardon from taking that justice away? It is now imaginable that the darkest days of racial inequality could return again to this country. Nominally the rule of law would prevent such a slippery slope, but in the name of “law and order” that rule is being undermined at every turn.

The pardon creates a new feeling of impunity for law enforcement, which in turn creates a new feeling of resentment and fear among the communities who have most suffered at law enforcement’s hand. Trump may be president for only three to seven more years. But the damage done to our faith in government, and our faith in each other, will last far longer than his presidency.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
James Haraldson
5 years 7 months ago

The President restored justice to a man who was unjustly convicted of having performed rational and sane acts of discrimination. Profiling is a rational and lawful act at a time of a border invasion no matter what idiocies our amoral judicial system might exercise to try to present justice and rationality as a violation of imaginary rights of lawbreakers. The fact that almost a hundred percent of those violating a particular law might be of a particular race or nationality, makes profiling a morally and legally sane thing for law enforcement to do, and to unjustly prosecute a man for being sane is an evil thing to do.

Elizabeth Stevens
5 years 7 months ago

In other words, the President violated his oath of office "to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Isn't that in itself an act worthy of inpeachment?

E.Patrick Mosman
5 years 7 months ago

An amazing show of ignorance of the Constitution of the United States as the President had the Constitutional authority to pardon Joe Arpaio.
"The President...shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
Article II, Section 2, Clause 1"
"The power to pardon is one of the least limited powers granted to the President in the Constitution. The only limits mentioned in the Constitution are that pardons are limited to offenses against the United States (i.e., not civil or state cases), and that they cannot affect an impeachment process."

John Horton
5 years 7 months ago

All right Communist / Liberation Theology Jesuits:

All law enforcement officers are by the US Constitutional "Full Faith and Credit" clause (Article IV, Section 1 of the United States Constitution) authorized to enforce if not at least acknowledge the laws of all 50 states and federal law, Probable cause for being an illegal alien can include "driving or walking while Mexican or Hispanic" so there is absolutely nothing illegal about stopping people who fit the physical profile of an illegal alien.

The Catholic Church advocating for the criminal activity of human trafficking in illegal aliens, which is just like slave trading, shows the moral bankruptcy of the Catholic Church. If the US Catholic Church is in love with Mexico and points south, then the US Catholic Church can pick itself up and move to Mexico and points south and stop begging for Greengo's dollar. The Catholic Church is just out pimping for big business (agriculture, construction, meat processing etc) who want exploitable cheap labor and is not helping illegal aliens other than putting the illegal alien welfare burden on White taxpayer

Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Bernard James Sheil and Communist Saul Alinsky together founded the Communist organization known as the "Industrial Areas Foundation" which proves that the Roman Catholic Church is a Communist organization.

Gail Sockwell-Thompson
5 years 7 months ago

45's actions embolden hateful and racist behavior. Sadly, the impact of his reign of terror will impact so many for a long time to come.

Michael Barberi
5 years 7 months ago

I think the author and those who are chastising Trump should reflect on the infamous pardons that Clinton and Obama granted. The real issue is this: Somehow it is morally right to criticize Trump regardless if the criticism is exaggerated, but not morally wrong and hypocritical when the same people give Clinton and Obama a free pass on their pardons that many believe were unjustified and immoral. While one bad decision does not justify another bad decision, the media and the anti-Trump camp will never admit that any of their over-the-top criticism of Trump is wrong.

Stuart Meisenzahl
5 years 7 months ago

To paraphrase Antonio's opening assault:

"Using the pardon as an end run around the enforcement of our Nation's drug laws is endorsing the use and sale by drug dealers of deadly narcotics responsible for the death of thousands every year. That is what happened when President Obama pardoned over 1,000 people convicted of that crime."

Same two sentences could be written about Puerto Rican Nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera convicted of 28 bombings in Chicago and one in New York that killed four people......".The Obama pardon of Lopez is an endorsement of conspiracy to commit insurrection and treason!"

Antonio ....I realize you are offended ...but you must be careful your sense of personal offense is leading to irrational conclusions. I am sure your Jesuit Editors have a copy of the text book for one of the formerly required philosophy courses in Jesuit Colleges: "Logic as A Human Instrument" by Parker and Veatch.
While published in 1959 , I think you will find there have been very few new developments in the system of logic......except perhaps as contrived as exceptions by our new Politically Correct world.

Personally I am opposed to the Arpaio pardon but that is hardly a basis for subscribing to your thesis or its frenetic description of horrors that might follow this pardon.

Douglas Fang
5 years 7 months ago

It seems that a few commentators here, some of whom that I know are well intended, suffer a critical blind-spot in order to be able to rationally recognize the recklessness, the bigotry, the racism in Trump’s actions. The pardon of Arpaio does not follow the norm of presidential pardons. It is a blatant show of contempt of the judiciary system and a clear abuse of presidential power, which is mostly done by dictators – those who try to test the limit of their “constitutional” power. There are many critics, including from Paul Ryan, and articles that denounce this pardon so I don’t bother repeat it here.

There are frequent comparisons to the pardons done by Obama. This comparison seems so disingenuous because it seems that all pardons even done by any president in the past should be looked at as explicit endorsements of the crimes committed by those pardoned! This is a very absurd argument.

Joe Arpio actions are both racist and unlawful and everyone with a tiny bit of conscience left can see it clearly. By pardoning him, Trump shows his true character – a despicable sociopath/dictator that is willing to ignore the rule of law as long as he can get away with it (remember his statement - ...if I shot someone...) God save us all!

Stuart Meisenzahl
5 years 7 months ago

Mr Fang
You have simply recast Antonio's original logic but retained its flaw. You are correct:" a pardon is not an endorsement of the subject/relevant crime committed." One does not "pardon the crime"......Antonio's error.

But neither does it reveal a thing about the character of the pardoner. What does it say about Obama's character that he pardoned Lopez... a Puerto Rican convicted of treason and bombings? What does it say about Clinton's character that he pardoned Marc Rich who was the greatest tax evader in US history as well as a confidant of The Ayatollah Komeni and an aider of the Iranian Revolution?
Finally EVERY PARDON is a dent in the rule of law......not just Trump's pardons. By definition, every pardon negates the punishment which the law imposes or may impose.

E.Patrick Mosman
5 years 7 months ago

"a despicable sociopath/dictator that is willing to ignore the rule of law"
Please identify the law you claim the President ignored as the President had the Constitutional authority to pardon Joe Arpaio.
"The President...shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
Article II, Section 2, Clause 1"

Lisa Weber
5 years 7 months ago

Donald Trump may have the power to pardon Joe Arpaio, but doing so only affirmed the racism and hatred displayed by Trump during the campaign and the months since. Supporting racism and discrimination is despicable.

Linking Trump's pardon of Arpaio to previous presidential pardons is irrelevant. If previous presidents granted questionable pardons, it still does not excuse this blatantly inappropriate pardon.

I find it interesting that Christians can support racism so enthusiastically because it goes against what Jesus taught. The Catholic Church is hindered in its condemnation of racism because it is so persistently sexist. It is very difficult to make a convincing argument that discrimination on the basis of ethnicity is wrong when discrimination on the basis of gender is so openly practiced by the Church.

Stuart Meisenzahl
5 years 7 months ago

Put very simply: If it contradicts , imposes a difficulty in your logical coherence, or is incontrovertible, you believe you can summarily dismiss it as as irrelevant.

According to Antonio:
Pardons are end runs around the law/endorsements of the underlying issue.
Trump pardoned "racist" Joe Arpaio
Therefore: Trump endorses racism.

Antonio's syllogism presumes the result in its flawed "predicate". I do not care if Antonio simply offers the proposition that he believes the Arpaio pardon is racist, or even that Trump is a racist but I do object to his posing that position as an irrefutable logical conclusion based on the fact of a pardon.
Similarly your argument that the Church is "hindered in its condemnation of racism because it is persistently sexist " is a matter of your personal reaction to selective tenets of its majesterium . Please explain your "sexist predicate" in the light of the Church' s historic "Mariology " . Your attempt to link "sexist " with "racist" is based on what? Your logic indicates that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception must be reverse "sexism"

rose-ellen caminer
5 years 7 months ago

Looks like sanctuary cities aren't enough to satisfy the open borders for Latinos advocates [who get very indignant when people from outside Latin America come here on tourist visas and give birth to US citizens, and demand crack downs against these non Spanish speaking foreigners who have "taken advantage" of our birth citizenship law;how dare they; only Latinos should be allowed to take advantage of our laws or get one over, is the implication of such selective indignation]. Who are now calling for de facto "no go zones" in Latino neighborhoods, on the border. What's a little traffic violation if done by a Latino in a border state! Equality under the law must give way to Latinos on the border [la Raza?] privilege.

The latest from america

pope francis greets medical workers in a hospital in 2021
I was pleasantly surprised to realize that amid all the polarization and turmoil found online among Catholics, we can still come together to pray for an old man who happens to be our pope.
Molly CahillMarch 31, 2023
A boat on the Sea of Galilee
A Reflection for Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent, by Zac Davis
Zac DavisMarch 31, 2023
Cardinal preaches to Roman Curia in Lent in Vatican audience hall.
“If those full seminaries had forged holy pastors, and the traditional formation imparted to them (were) solid and true, we wouldn’t have to mourn so many scandals today,” Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, said.
Sister Jean discusses Loyola’s magical Final Four run, why she loves being around young people and where she believes the Catholic Church is headed.
JesuiticalMarch 31, 2023