(CBSDFW.COM) – President Trump has pardoned controversial former Maricopa County official, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, according to the White House.
In a statement Friday evening, the White House said Arpaio’s “life and career” exemplified “selfless public service.”
“Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration,” the statement read.
It added, “Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”
But Trump’s decision to pardon Arpaio was met with much disappointment.
Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), first vice chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, issued the following statement after it was announced:
“President Trump used the power of the presidency to pardon a bigot today. Sheriff Arpaio is a stain on law enforcement. He directed the targeting of individuals based on their race, and continued the illegal, discriminatory practice after a judge ordered him to stop.
President Trump’s decision to pardon Sheriff Arpaio in the wake of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville will embolden racist factions of our society. This callous announcement deepens divisions between Americans and hinders the healing our nation needs.”
Arpaio was convicted in July after he was found guilty of misdemeanor contempt-of-court for ignoring a 2011 court order to stop patrols a judge said racially profiled Latinos.
He was facing up to six months in jail, though attorneys who have followed the case doubted that someone his age would be incarcerated.
Unlike other local police leaders who left immigration enforcement to U.S. authorities, Arpaio made hundreds of arrests in traffic patrols that sought out immigrants and business raids in which his officers targeted immigrants who used fraudulent IDs to get jobs.
The efforts are similar to local immigration enforcement that President Trump has advocated. To build his highly touted deportation force, Trump is reviving a long-standing program that deputizes local officers to enforce federal immigration law.
Arpaio’s immigration powers were eventually stripped away by the courts and federal government.
The contempt-of-court case marked the first time federal authorities had prosecuted Arpaio on a criminal charge, though his office had been the subject of past investigations.
Federal authorities had looked into Arpaio’s misspending of $100 million in jail funds and his criminal investigations of political enemies. Neither investigation led to prosecution of the sheriff or his employees.
Arpaio’s criminal charges are believed to have contributed heavily to his crushing defeat in November to little-known retired Phoenix police Sgt. Paul Penzone.
He was ousted in the same election that sent Trump to the White House. Trump used some of the same immigration rhetoric that helped make Arpaio a national figure in the debate over the U.S.-Mexico border.