Donald Trump, via Wiki­media Commons

“I’ll make a pre­diction: I think he’s going to be just fine,” Pres­ident Trump announced to a room of his sup­porters in Phoenix, indi­cating his intention to pardon former sheriff Joe Arpaio of a recently acquired criminal con­tempt con­viction. Arpaio, an 85-year old res­ident of Maricopa County, was found guilty of vio­lating a 2011 court order from a federal judge to cease pro­filing and detaining sus­pected illegal immi­grants, essen­tially pro­hibiting him from enforcing federal immi­gration laws in Maricopa County.

Unsur­pris­ingly, the President’s decision caused outrage from con­gres­sional Democrats, per­ceiving this as another setback to progress. “As mil­lions of people in TX and LA are prepping for the Hur­ricane, the Pres­ident is using the cover of the storm to pardon a man who vio­lated a court’s order to stop dis­crim­i­nating against Latinos,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted.

Regardless, Trump’s decision was not an abuse of power. In Article II, Section 2 of the United States Con­sti­tution, it states that the Pres­ident “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”

Con­tention sur­rounds Pres­ident Trump’s failure to consult the Justice Department’s Office of Pardon Attorney, an exec­utive provider of clemency guide­lines. According to Carrie Johnson of NPR, the Office states one should not “apply for clemency until five years after their con­viction or sen­tencing.”

The lengthy process, let alone the con­sul­tation, is not a con­sti­tu­tionally required pro­vision. It can be sur­passed by pres­i­dents to facil­itate a pardon. Neither is it applicable to Arpaio’s case: a mis­de­meanor offence with a sen­tence of 6-months for which the former sheriff made no clemency request.

There are also several issues with the court’s han­dling of this case. Most sig­nif­i­cantly, Arpaio’s request for a jury was denied to him by Judge Snow, jus­tified by a 1970 supreme court decision, Baldwin v. New York, which arrived at an exception for crimes without potential for sen­tencing greater than 6 months. Nev­er­theless, according to Robert Robb of The Republic, its ruling was decided by “three of eight jus­tices,” informing the current standard with an abnor­mally derived verdict.

Another arises in the impli­ca­tions of his con­viction. While some argue the President’s pardon of Arpaio sets a precedent for exec­utive authority to subvert the rule of law, the precedent set by tol­erance of certain crimes through denying law enforcement the authority to respond to them is a sig­nif­icant concern.

The judiciary’s role is to interpret the law. Nev­er­theless, when the judi­ciary inter­prets the law in a fashion that inhibits its enforcement, the pres­ident should be able to “take Care that the Laws be faith­fully exe­cuted” by ensuring those who enforce them aren’t pros­e­cuted.

Arpaio took uncommon ini­tiative by enforcing immi­gration laws that the federal gov­ernment failed to uphold. Rather than accepting the order to com­promise his duty, he risked his welfare and rep­u­tation at large for the safety of his county.

Cit­izens trust immi­gration laws will be enforced. When law enforcement is pro­hibited from deliv­ering on that promise, these laws are reduced to mere sug­ges­tions.


Sean Hyaduck is a sophomore studying the liberal arts.