The Half-Hearted Apology of Joe Arpaio

The Arizona sheriff is on trial for contempt of court for defying a court order to disband immigration patrols.
The Arizona sheriff is on trial for contempt of court for defying a court order to disband immigration patrols.

Last week America’s most anti-immigrant sheriff, Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, was put on trial for contempt of court. The Arizona cop has long defied a Federal court order banning his immigration patrols. The court had ordered the patrols to end because they racially profile Latinos. In his testimony Arpaio made one of the most disingenuous apologies of recent years when he essentially told the judge that he continued his illegal patrols because he did not understand the court’s order. Here is what he told the judge about one of the most publicized court actions of his career:

”I didn’t know all the facts of this court order, and it really hurts me that after 55 years … to be in this position. So I want to apologize to the judge that I should have known more. This court order slipped through the cracks.”

The order got national publicity, but Arpaio says it “fell through the cracks.”

Of course Arpaio knew about the order. In fact, a former commander in the sheriff’s office said under oath that when he was ordered to detain suspected undocumented immigrants, “I told the sheriff immediately that was an unlawful order and I was not going to follow it.” The sheriff’s subordinates told him what he was doing was against the law. They knew and told him so.

One of the most bizarre revelations of the contempt hearing was Joe Arpaio’s admission that his Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office had hired a private investigator to investigate the wife of the Federal judge who was holding the hearing, Judge G. Murray Snow. This is part of a pattern for the publicity-seeking cop. Arpaio has put the sheriff’s department behind covert operations against his critics before, including sending a volunteer force to investigate if President Obama was born in Kenya. Anyone who crosses him can expect to have an investigation launched into his or her life.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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