Immigration and civil rights advocates and Democrats decried the announcement that Joe Arpaio, who was charged with contempt of court and later pardoned by President Donald Trump, was running for his old job as an Arizona sheriff.
Arpaio, an immigration hard-liner, said Sunday he was running for a seventh term as Maricopa County sheriff. The announcement came two years to the day after he was pardoned by Trump for criminal contempt of court for refusing to comply with a judge’s order that he stop detaining people because he suspected they were undocumented immigrants.
“How delusional do you have to be to be removed from office by voters not just for doing a horrible job, but for being convicted of violating peoples' rights, and think you deserve that job again?” Alex Padilla, a Democrat and the secretary of state for California, wrote on Twitter on Monday.
Alessandra Soler, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, said in a statement that Arpaio was “a racist” who should not be allowed to hold office.
“When Joe Arpaio talks about ‘those who break the law,’ he should be referring to himself. Following our lawsuit against him and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, a federal court found that Arpaio's office profiled and illegally detained Latinos and violated their constitutional rights,” Soler said.
“President Trump might’ve pardoned him, but those who had families and communities destroyed by his unlawful tactics have not,” she said.
Arpaio’s tenure as sheriff was mired with controversy and several civil rights lawsuits. In 2011, the Justice Department said the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office had “a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos.”
In his announcement Sunday, Arpaio said he would reinstate some of those controversial policies, including housing immigrants in outdoor tents in the 100-degrees-plus temperatures of the Phoenix area that he had previously called concentration camps. His inmates were also previously forced to wear pink underwear and accessories and made to work in chain gangs.
“Thousands want me to run for Sheriff,” Arpaio said in a tweet announcing his candidacy. “Today Aug 25 announcing run for Sheriff Important day for me. Wife's Birthday & Pres Trump Pardoned me. Ready for bruising, bitter campaign. Never back down.”
Arpaio, 87, was first elected sheriff in 1992 before he was unseated in 2016 by Paul Penzone, a Democrat. He has called himself “America’s toughest sheriff.”
Raquel Terán, a Democrat elected to Arizona’s Legislature in 2018, tweeted “Pena Ajena” in response to the announcement of Arpaio’s candidacy, a Spanish phrase used to indicate feeling embarrassed for somebody else.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said on Twitter on Sunday that Arpaio “abused his power as a law enforcement officer, engaged in racial discrimination and intimidation and violated a federal court order.”
“And he is unrepentant about all of it,” she said.
Meanwhile, Imraan Siddiqi, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Arizona, tweeted in response to the announcement, “This is more tedious than The Walking Dead.”
In his announcement, Arpaio said he would “continue to stand and fight to do the right thing for Arizona and America, and will never surrender.”
“Those who break the law will have to deal with this Sheriff,” he said.
Trump spared Arpaio a possible jail sentence two years ago and arguments in an appeal of a ruling that refused to erase his criminal record after he was pardoned are scheduled to take place in October, according to The Associated Press.
The judge who refused to expunge the conviction has said pardons don’t erase convictions or the facts of cases and that Arpaio’s clemency only mooted his possible punishments, according to the AP.
A special prosecutor has said Arpaio relinquished his right to appeal his conviction when he accepted the pardon.