On Friday, President Donald Trump issued the first pardon of his presidency, to former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Arpaio gained a reputation as “America’s toughest sheriff” for his tough stance against crime and, in particular, his enforcement of federal immigration policies.
“Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration,” read a White House statement on the pardon.
Arpaio had been found guilty of criminal contempt of court in July for violating a federal judge’s order in 2011 to stop enforcing federal immigration laws. The sheriff had continued to detain people who were in the country illegally, despite the judge’s order that he could only do so if those detained had been accused of a state crime.
In the 17 months following the judge’s order in 2011, over 170 illegal immigrants had been arrested and handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Arpaio had announced he would appeal the court’s decision in late July and would continue to press for a jury trial, something that had been denied.
The White House statement highlighted Arpaio’s long career in serving the country, starting at age 18 in the military, followed by 25 years of law enforcement service. The sheriff left retirement in the early ’90s to run for sheriff in Maricopa County.
Like Arpaio, Trump has taken a strong stance against illegal immigration, promising the construction of a wall on the southwest border to prevent illegal crossings and drug smuggling.
Since Trump’s inauguration, apprehensions of illegal border crossers have dropped by 46 percent, year over year, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Trump’s administration has taken a particularly tough stance against criminal gangs operating in the United States, such as the MS-13 gang, of which many members are in the country illegally.
The gang is known for its extreme violence and has “kill, rape, control” as its motto.
“We are liberating towns out on Long Island,” Trump said at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, earlier this week referring to MS-13 gang members.
Since January 2016, 17 murders on Long Island have been attributed to MS-13. The group has an estimated 10,000 members in the United States.
“They don’t shoot people, because it’s too fast and not painful. They cut them up into little pieces. These are animals. We are getting them out of here. We’re throwing them in jails, and we’re throwing them out of the country. We’re liberating our towns,” Trump said.
At the Phoenix rally Trump said “Sheriff Joe” had been convicted for doing his job.
While Arpaio was tried for enforcing immigration laws in situations where he did not have the statutory authority to do so, the Trump administration plans to hold to account jurisdictions that fail to cooperate with federal immigration laws. It has called on local authorities to abandon sanctuary policies that shield illegal immigrants from deportation.
After Trump took office, Texas passed a bill—that takes effect on Sept. 1—that calls for the jailing of police chiefs, sheriffs, and possibly officers who fail to cooperate with U.S. immigration laws. The legislation also makes it possible for police to ask people about their immigration status.
Trump said at the Phoenix rally that “I’ll make a prediction. I think he’s going to be just fine, OK?” talking about Arpaio.
“The people of Arizona know the deadly and heartbreaking consequences of illegal immigration, the lost lives, the drugs, the gangs, the cartels, the crisis of smuggling and trafficking,” Trump said.