Pardoning Bigotry: Trump’s words and deeds strengthen systems of oppression

President Trump’s pardon of former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio sends a signal of support to those who believe that some people in this country are less human than others.

Trump pardoned Arpaio on August 25, after Arpaio had been found guilty of contempt of court for ignoring a federal judge’s order to end racial profiling. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Arpaio oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history. The pardon proclaims that racial profiling and the criminalization of people of color  are legal and socially acceptable methods of policing.

Grassroots opposition to Arpaio was strong in response to the many dehumanizing tactics that he directed his department to employ. He targeted brown-skinned people in a state that has a large Latinx population. Arpaio’s defeat in the November 2016 election was due in large part to years of organizing work done by migrant- and Latinx-led organizations in Arizona. Trump’s pardon sends a signal that even victories claimed at the ballot box can be undermined with the stroke of a pen.

Arpaio’s actions as sheriff are similar to the actions of bigoted officials during the civil rights movement. Arpaio used the power of the office of sheriff to harass and imprison people based on nothing more than the color of their skin. Trump’s pardon tells Arpaio and others with similar views that there is nothing wrong with mistreating people based on their appearance.

Racism is rooted in systems that give power and privilege to white people while denying the same benefits to others. Those systems of oppression deny people of color and people who don’t speak English equal access to employment and housing and have led to the deaths of over 6,000 migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border. Arpaio used his power to support those systems, and Trump has now endorsed those actions, giving succor to the enemies of freedom and justice. This was an inexcusable act, and it sets back the fight for justice for migrants by decades.

BorderLinks calls on the people of the U.S. to proclaim in words and deeds that bigotry and oppression have no place in this country, nor in our world.