People come to the Arizona desert for a myriad of reasons. President Donald Trump is coming to Arizona this week to bring his circus of hate after doubling down on his defense of the Neo-Nazis and white supremacists that wreaked havoc in Charlottesville, Va. last weekend. He’ll be holding a rally for his ever-dwindling number of supporters, and as part of these theatrics, will likely issue a presidential pardon for convicted criminal and disgraced former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
With this visit to Arizona, Trump’s full embrace of the racist hatred of the alt-right is in full bloom. We can already assume that at his rally, he will once again attack immigrants, Mexico, and promote his silly wall. Tried and true, whenever Trump feels cornered, he pivots and attacks immigrants to misdirect attention from real issues and throws the red meat that the most extremist elements of his base continue to crave.
If Trump pardons Arpaio, it wouldn’t be just a pardoning of the man; it would be a ringing endorsement of his crimes and disregard for the laws of our nation. For years, the disgraced ex-sheriff initiated discriminatory police practices against immigrants and Latinos. Among his long track record of policing misconduct, Arpaio conducted immigration raids into predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods and ordered officers to racially profile subjects during traffic stops.
The fear and persecution of these communities made Arpaio a sainted figure for the alt-right. But the courts said enough was enough and refused to let Arpaio’s illegal raids and racial profiling stand. He was convicted of criminal contempt for refusing to comply with the ruling of a U.S. district court judge that mandated him to cease his racist policing practices.
Unsurprisingly, Trump thinks poor Arpaio deserves a break. This is dangerous territory. If Trump moves forward with issuing Arpaio a pardon, it would not only be a dangerous subversion of our country’s judicial system, but would amount to a blatant validation of the racist ideals that the ex-sheriff represents. We should all be concerned by Trump’s willingness to nullify and downgrade criminal behavior.
There is an old Mexican proverb that goes, “Dime con quien te juntas y te digo quien eres.” A rough English translation is, “Tell me who you’re with and I’ll tell you who you are.” In defending and justifying racist groups and Arpaio, Trump has been fully unmasked.
These coming days will test the resolve and decency of the American people. We must once again seek the moral high ground and cleanse our national discourse of those who wish to foster bigotry and hate, be they a disgraced and convicted former sheriff or the president of the United States.
Raúl Grijalva is the U.S. representative for Arizona’s third congressional district.