Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a rally for Donald Trump in Arizona in November 2016. Photo: Gage Skidmore
Law | Opinion | Politics

Steve Russell: President Trump throws brown people under the bus with pardon of ex-sheriff

Citizens of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe were among the first to complain about the racist tactics of Joe Arpaio, a former sheriff in Arizona. Almost 10 years later, the controversial lawman remains as polarizing as ever, thanks to a pardon from President Donald Trump Steve Russell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, explains why the decision sends a bad signal to all the "brown people" in America:
In poor communities like the one where I grew up, you still hear the police referred to as “the law.” While nothing could be farther from the truth, people who can’t afford a lawyer are stuck with whatever a man with a badge does, so calling that person “the law” is a statement of lived reality.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a state officer, took it upon himself to enforce a federal law. Immigration law is like Indian law in that it’s always federal. A state officer cannot enforce it without both permission of the state and agreement of the federal authorities. In the case of immigration status, the law is immensely complicated. A state court judge—let alone a state law enforcement officer—is in no position to know whether a particular individual is in the U.S. legally.

Predictably, Arpaio’s department hoovered up brown people, who might have been citizens of Mexico or any country to the south of Mexico. They might also be American Indians, citizens by birth of nations that existed in North America before the U.S. or Mexico gained independent political status.

In a lawsuit on behalf of brown people offended by being arrested for driving while brown, the federal court not only did not ratify Sheriff Joe’s round up of brown people, it ordered him to cease and desist.

He violated the court’s order. While that had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to hold him in criminal contempt, Sheriff Joe has never denied continuing the roundup of brown people. While this case was going on, the voters of Maricopa County—many of whom are brown—took away the power he was abusing by voting him out of office.

Read More on the Story:
Steve Russell: Trump Throws Law Under the Bus With Joe Arpaio Pardon (Indian Country Media Network August 26, 2017)

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