The American Solidarity party stands for the rule of law, the dignity of all, and the use of the legal system to promote and protect that human dignity. This fundamental stance forces us to speak out against the Presidential pardon of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio. This pardon promotes and protects unlawful discrimination. The pardon also reveals the misapplication of proper pardon powers, using it to excuse law-breaking by the powerful and well-connected, corrupting its original design.
The preamble to the Civil Rights plank of our American Solidarity Party platform states: “We believe in the vigorous enforcement of civil liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights. We believe that the persistence of unjust discrimination in our society must be acknowledged and addressed. The state has a role to play in protecting marginalized groups from unjust discrimination, and should pay particular attention to the effect that policy proposals will have on vulnerable and marginalized groups.”
The American Solidarity Party also is a strong proponent of holding law enforcement accountable for respecting civil rights. Our platform expressess our support for: “Measures to increase transparency and trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, including the use of body cameras and civilian review boards, models of community policing, and the diversification of local police forces. “ Fair law enforcement is effective law enforcement.
As Maricopa County Sheriff, Arpaio was found to have unlawfully detained individuals based on their immigration status. These actions were a violation of the law because as a state official Arpaio had no authority to enforce federal immigration laws. Therefore, any detention of individuals based on their federal immigration status by a state official, such as Arpaio, was unlawful.
He was repeatedly ordered by federal courts to discontinue this unlawful practice. When he continued, in repeated defiance of these federal court orders, he was charged with criminal contempt. There is nothing in the public record that indicates this conviction was the least bit unfair or unwarranted or that his six-month jail sentence for his brazen defiance of law was excessive. It appears as a measured response to an abuse of power.
Yet President Trump exercised his constitutional pardon powers to vacate the ruling of a federal judge and relieve Arpaio of the imposed criminal sanctions. Such a pardon is unwarranted in light of Arpaio’s repeated efforts to adopt and enforce discriminatory law enforcement practices and thumb his nose at the judiciary that sought to restrain him. Such a Presidential action can only embolden other foes of civil rights laws.
This application of pardon powers also requires us to speak out on the broader concern of how pardon powers are being applied by the modern Presidency. Unfortunately, this is not the only example among recent Presidents applying this power only to assist the well-off or well -connected.
As a Party of Solidarity, we encourage the selective use of Presidential pardon powers as an instrument of justice. Properly applied, pardon powers can promote justice by mitigating the occasions of excessive harshness by the system of justice or provide a second chance to the deserving and sincerely contrite caught up in the wheels of the criminal justice system. Our system of justice is great but ultimately human and, therefore, imperfect. It needs mitigating tools to soften its edges, such as pardon and clemency. But that application requires equality under the law. All, regardless of wealth, status or fame, or lack thereof, should be subject to equal consideration for the exercise of these mitigating measures.
When Presidents use these powers to pardon their political cronies or favored donors, the pardon powers are corrupted. Trump’s application of powers in this particular instance reflects a contempt for the Constitution. The separation of powers requires the Executive to respect the ability of the Judiciary to apply and interpret the law. Trump, in this case, has usurped the rightful role of the judiciary to ensure that its court orders are enforced. We call for a reexamination across the board of how the Presidential pardon system operates. It must be used to advance justice, not thwart it.