Joe Arpaio

Trump, Sheriff Joe, and the Thrill of Arbitrary Power

The president admires strong men who break the law to enforce it.


Three days before Donald Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, he suggested that the former Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff was "convicted for doing his job." In reality, Arpaio was convicted for doing someone else's job by enforcing federal immigration law.

When a federal judge told him to cut it out, Arpaio openly defied the order. By giving a pass to Arpaio's criminal contempt, the president reveals the hollowness of his supposed commitment to law and order.

Beginning in 2007, specially trained Maricopa County deputies had authority under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to detain people they believed to be in the country illegally. But after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revoked that authority in 2009, Arpaio's deputies could legally detain people only if they reasonably suspected they were involved in criminal activity, as opposed to a civil violation of federal immigration law.

U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow made that point clear in a 2011 preliminary injunction, ordering the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) to stop "detaining persons for further investigation without reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is being committed." Responding to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Snow said "MCSO and all of its officers are hereby enjoined from detaining any person based only on knowledge or reasonable belief, without more, that the person is unlawfully present within the United States."

It is clear that Arpaio understood the meaning of Snow's injunction. "If you just believe or you know that [someone] is in the country unlawfully," MCSO's lawyer explained to the sheriff, "you cannot detain him based on that alone. You either are to have an arrest based on state charges or you release. Those are the options."

Arpaio, whose reputation, local popularity, and electoral success depended largely on his efforts to catch illegal immigrants, did not like those options. He therefore decided to ignore the injunction, and he made no secret of that decision.

"I'm still going to arrest illegal aliens coming into this country," Arpaio said on PBS in 2012. "I'm going to continue to enforce state laws and federal laws," he told Fox News.

"Nothing has changed," Arpaio told Univision. According to a 2012 MCSO press release, "Arpaio remains adamant about the fact that his office will continue to enforce both state and federal illegal immigration laws."

The sheriff was true to his word. After Snow issued the preliminary injunction in December 2011 and before he made it permanent in May 2013, the MCSO's so-called Human Smuggling Unit (HSU) turned over to ICE 171 people who were not charged with a crime.

It is not hard to see why another federal judge, Susan Bolton, concluded last month that Arpaio had "willfully violated" Snow's order, making him guilty of criminal contempt. He was scheduled to be sentenced in October until Trump's pardon let him off.

Trump thinks Arpaio, an early supporter of his presidential campaign, is a "great law enforcement person" who "was treated unbelievably unfairly." The important thing for Trump is that Arpaio, like him, is "very strong on illegal immigration."

A 2011 report from the Justice Department gives you a sense of what Arpaio's strength looked like in practice. Examining traffic stops by MCSO deputies, the DOJ found that Latino drivers were "four to nine times more likely to be stopped than similarly situated non-Latino drivers."

According to the DOJ, about one-fifth of the HSU's reports on traffic stops, "almost all of which involved Latino drivers, contained information indicating that the stops were conducted in violation of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable seizures." Many of the people detained by Arpaio's deputies were, like the plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit, in the country legally but targeted for harassment because of their skin color or accents.

Strong men like Arpaio and Trump believe enforcing the law may require breaking it. But to those who suffer the consequences, that kind of strength looks a lot like lawlessness.

© Copyright 2017 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. WRONG. You are missing the bigger picture. Of course Trump is a hypocrite on law and order, but the fact is, the people voted for Arpaio multiple times to behave exactly as he did, and that’s the real problem here. Sending Arpaio to prison would not have solved anything – it would only have vindicated and radicalized his followers, and then the next election they would have voted in a real ’round em up’ Nazi and taken further precautions to make sure he couldn’t be indicted. By pardoning Arpaio, Trump prevented this scapegoating and allowed Arpaio (or ally) to run, who can now be defeated fair and square by the will of the people. When they elect a liberal they will have only themselves to blame. There will be weeping and gnashing among the Trumpkins and I will dance – even at the risk of being banned again.

    1. Sounds like a whole lot of traitor talk to me.

  2. Thrill of Arbitrary Power

    “I’ve got a pen and a phone”

    1. You’ve mentioned that before, BuyBuyTrumptardo.

  3. Gee, I wonder what this thread will look like tomorrow.

    Lemme make a wild mass guess:

    Normal Commenters: *snark* *pun* *jawboning* *natter* *snark*



    1. Sounds like you’re bored of your friends.

      1. “Friendship” is just an old, old wooden ship from the Civil War Era to me.

    2. But all of us Lawn Odor folks know that THE LAWS must be obeyed!

      Illegal humans are being illegal humans, and if they properly respected THE LAWS, they’d STOP being illegal humans!

  4. “I’m still going to arrest illegal aliens coming into this country,” Arpaio said on PBS in 2012. “I’m going to continue to enforce state laws and federal laws,” he told Fox News.

    It’s not Sheriff Joe’s fault that Judge Snow and ICE essentially made the sheriff and his deputies illegals in their own fish pond. They were doing their duty, which is a little bit more than the law will allow. You want Sheriff Joe on that wall. You need him on that wall. Did he order the code red? You’re goddamn right he did.

  5. On the one hand Joe got convicted on a BS charge, some kind of payback for being such a miserable dick for most of his miserable life, but on the other hand he was a miserable dick most of his miserable life. It’s no surprise to me that Trump has a Hobbesian view of the world, he’s a miserable dick, too.

    1. I think it has more to do with Trump having formed his views by watching Dragnet and Adam-12 in his youth. Cops are always good, and everyone they arrest is bad.

      Seriously, the guy acts like his depth on knowledge on most subjects is 1-angstrom thick.

    2. Either way, getting the illegals out is a good thing.

      1. pants-shitting Contard.

  6. So, this is about the judges use of arbitrary power–ordering people to ignore enacted laws?

    Because the only ‘arbitrary power’ I’m seeing here isn’t coming from Arpaio–it’s coming from people with pens. And phones. And their cronies.

    Oh, it’s ‘eaglets’.Telcontar, bald eaglets.

    1. More like ordering people to not enforce laws they aren’t authorized to enforce. A pretty important part of any system of law enforcement. And thanks for making it clear you don’t give a shit about the Fourth Amendment. Who cares about that law if it gets in the way of cracking down on potential illegals?

      1. Don’t ignore ICE’s extra-legal decrees that started all of this. The administration actively ignored federal immigration law which instigated this whole sad situation.

        1. I don’t know why I’m the one asking you this, but did you realize this is a libertarian site?

          1. You’ve never really understood that, why worry about him?

    2. “Baby bald eagles” sounded funnier.

  7. It is a given that Arpaio is a sphincter: Tough-talking law and order ass that will no doubt violate EVERYONE’S rights in any chicken-shit traffic stop.

    But, in these times, I think it’s a good thing whenever a sheriff tells a judge to bugger off. We need a lot more of that. Until our justice system is fixed, flipping off judges is welcome.

    1. Why is any of that a given? Based on an Obama lackey’s ‘report’ like the one referenced in the article? That’s about as reliable as a CNN news story.

  8. “But after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revoked that authority in 2009, Arpaio’s deputies could legally detain people only if they reasonably suspected they were involved in criminal activity, as opposed to a civil violation of federal immigration law.”
    Obama revoked this and spent his presidency minimizing federal immigration law, so Arpaio decided on his own to enforce the federal law on the books.

    To be fair, I support Arpaio more now that I see the move to take away non-federal law enforcement agencies ability to arrest illegals. Obama did not want agencies out of his control flooding ICE with illegal that then had to deal with.

    I see Arpaio having contempt of the federal court because they refused to allow Arpaio to enforce federal immigration law. I have contempt for that court too.

    1. That is not a popular opinion to have here. But then, I have a low opinion of open border nutcases so I don’t care.

      You are right on target.

    2. LoveAuthoritarianFuckwit, what are you doing on a libertarian website?
      Did The Fewderalist or Breit-tard ban you?

  9. Smug liberals (read: The Reason Staff) know best about what is good for Maricopa County.

    IMHO, he should have been give a trial in front of his peers. Duck this judge.

    All hail God-Emporer Trump.

    1. Another Con-Tard heard from.
      shouldn’t you assholes be hanging at

  10. Yes, Arpaio was wrong to ignore the courts order. But the courts order only existed because Arpaio was ignoring the decree of the highly politicized Obama Admin’s ICE that revoked his prior authority.

    Not at all an Arpaio fan, but it should really be pointed out that this whole issue started with the Obama Administrations clear violation of immigration law, circumvented through executive actions. Congress makes law, not the executive and while it’s apparent many Reason writers prefer an open-borders policy and applauded those actions by Obama at the time, it flies in the face of wanting a true nation-of-laws, equal protection under the law Libertarian philosophy.

    It is a sordid tale going back long before the contempt issue and folks would do well to understand why many more players were a problem in this beyond just Arpaio and Trump

  11. Don’t worry, Arpaio will soon be gone from the limelight. Fortunately that toolbag sheriff from Milwaukee will rise to take his place.

  12. Why should ordinary citizens like Sheriff Joe have respect for the law if the law is constantly being flaunted in Washington for political and economic advantage and the powerful in government are never made to pay for breaking the law? The top corrupts the bottom, not vice versa.

    1. Flouted.
      illiterate Contard.

  13. Arpaio never broke the law or he would have been charged with some statute, he was only charged with contempt which that judge deserved. It was a political prosecution. by a democrat appointed judge that should have been blue slipped but Mcstain neglected his duty again.

    1. Your link to Breit-tard is broken, Con-Flake.

    2. Nevermind the fact he is stopping poor Jose from walking his dog down the street who just got down mowing and manicuring your mom’s lawn in the suburbs and asking for papers for no other reason than walking his goddam Pekingnese.

      “achtung Juden!!! Geben Sie deine Papiere bitte”

  14. ” In reality, Arpaio was convicted for doing someone else’s job by enforcing federal immigration law.”

    Which is why only globalists get upset over this pardon. Everybody else is more upset with the anarchy that led to Arpaio’s actions. Everybody else likes the idea of borders and national sovereignty.

  15. There is no longer any adherence to the constitution. The orders preventing Arpairo from stopping suspected illegal aliens is what was actually illegal. Just like the new law in Oregon, allowing the state to invade homes without a warrant to steal (“confiscate”) firearms because someone “thinks” the owner may harm someone. Constitutionally illegal, but now legal in the state of Washington…..

    1. Did this story link on Breit-tard? Where are all your Trumpkins coming from today?
      Go back to your compounds and fap to your ammo pile.

    2. Did this story link on Breit-tard? Where are all your Trumpkins coming from today?
      Go back to your compounds and fap to your ammo pile.

  16. I don’t trust anything out of the obstructionist Obama judiciary, especially from this phony baloney Snow. These kind of rulings knock supportive timbers out of the structure of our Constitutional government every bit as much as overreaching executive orders.

  17. Clinton pardoned his friend that had not even gone to court and ran out of country
    Obama pardoned traitor that had 35 year sentence
    No comparison to Trump as his was actually helping a good man.

    1. Contard No. 15 on this story, by my count.

  18. Wait a minute…..waaaaait a minute. So this is a libertarian-ish site, I would think you marks would be up in arms about this. Instead, most of you remind me of John Bolton.

    So some crabass sheriff was, who, for political reasons of his own (not denying Snow didn’t have political reasons, hell everything done is done for political reasons), goes around ignoring a court order detaining people, simply on the suspicion that they are illegals? And noone seems to be bothered by this? Of course, we can all assume that the targets of these arrests were of the brown skin variety but what would stop him, or one of his meathead minions that just got done and feeling pretty good from downing 14 donuts and 6 cups of coffee from stopping your white ass on suspicion you overstayed your visa from Hungary? “Papers please, you are from Hungary Mr. Szechzny. Oh no papers??? You’re coming with me BUSTER!!!!” Bear in mind, no Arizona crimes have been committed, so Mr. Rodriguez, who is current on the visa and happens to be a crack pediatric surgeon in Phoenix just saved little Timmy Jone’s life and is walking to Subway for a Tuna on rye, and here comes Corporal Jagoff asking for papers. REALLY????

    Seems pretty Stasi like to me.

    1. First they came for the Mexicans and I said nothing because I’m white and they will almost certainly never, ever come for me.

      1. Your antifa buddies are coming for the whites right now.

        1. Back to the Federalist, Elias Fucknuts.

      2. So there are no white Mexicans, the Mexicans beg to differ. That sounds awfully small minded and racist in my view. That would virtually make you a Nazi, congrats!

  19. I hate to bring up what should be utterly obvious among-st all these comments; but Illegal Immigrants ( Non-U.S. Citizens ) don’t have a 4th Amendment right. If they did; they’d be considered U.S. Citizens protected by the U.S. 4th Amendment.

    Any rights granted to illegal immigrants will come from International treaties – if there are any.

  20. What every moron who pisses and moans about this “pardon” seem to forget to mention is that Joe was DENIED his Constitutional right to a jury trial, so any “conviction’ is moot.
    The misconception that trespassers who are here ILLEGALLY, have the same Constitutional rights as citizens is also never mentioned.
    At least now, Joe and Donald can review the “cold case posse’s” findings on obuttheads forged birth certificate, and maybe get Sessions off his butt, and do something.

  21. So, he had no authority to enforce federal laws, but arrested people anyway. Isn’t that kidnapping?

  22. Arbitrary Power is fine as long as I wield it. My house, my rules.

  23. Funny watching Reason writers stoop to defense of the state out of their hatred for Trump.

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