Email #252: “a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio”?

On July 31st U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled that former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio was guilty of defying a 2011 court order prohibiting racial profiling. Arpaio continued to instruct his officers to detain anyone they suspected might be in the country illegally, resulting in the detention of citizens and other legal residents. The judge found that he “willfully violated” the order with “flagrant disregard” by broadcasting “to the world and to his subordinates that he would and they should continue ‘what he had always been doing.’” Arpaio faces up to six months in jail—unless of course President Trump intervenes.

The President said over the weekend: “I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio. 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.” Although the White House is not confirming whether the President was serious, he retweeted a Fox News story about his intention to pardon Arpaio, possibly in the next few days. More inexplicably, the President retweeted a response to the Fox News link by another Twitter user on Tuesday: “He’s a fascist, so not unusual.” The retweet was deleted later that morning.

Whether the former sheriff is a “fascist” or a “great American patriot” is irrelevant. He broke the law and was found guilty. Why then is the President considering a pardon? Do you agree that law enforcement officials should have the ability to disregard court orders? You said last October:

“We are a nation of laws. That principle was important to our Founders, and it is rightfully at the very core of our government. In fact, as I travel the Sixth Congressional District, folks continually tell me about the importance of following the rule of law as the best way to govern our country. Too often they have seen laws ignored with little or no consequences for those who break them, and want this to change.”

Arpaio ignored the law, and now he needs to pay the consequences. Arpaio also campaigned for Donald Trump, perpetuating the debunked conspiracy theory that President Obama was not born in the U.S. even after Trump dropped the claim himself. If the President pardons him because he agrees with his racist policing techniques and is repaying him for his campaign support, in what sense are we a nation of laws? Regardless of how you personally feel about immigration policing and racial profiling, you are duty bound as a member of Congress and as the chair of the House Judiciary Committee to oppose the President’s threat to pardon Arpaio.

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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