Pardon of Arpaio would refute crux of immigration debate

In this 2016 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, is joined by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio during a new conference in Marshalltown, Iowa. President Donald Trump has pardoned the former sheriff following his conviction for intentionally disobeying a judge’s order in an immigration case. (Mary Altaffer/AP, File)

In this 2016 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, is joined by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio during a new conference in Marshalltown, Iowa. President Donald Trump has pardoned the former sheriff following his conviction for intentionally disobeying a judge’s order in an immigration case. (Mary Altaffer/AP, File)

PHOENIX — Arizona politicians have invoked the “rule of law” for more than a decade as the guiding principle in pushing for tougher immigration laws, arguing that no one — no matter who you are — is above the law.

The rallying cry has become muted as President Donald Trump considers a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio after a judge found he broke the law in defying a judge while carrying out traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.

The president told Fox News that he was seriously considering a pardon for Arpaio, an enthusiastic Trump supporter who shared the stage with him at several campaign rallies and became a close ally in pushing for tougher immigration enforcement.

The prospect has fueled speculation that Trump will issue his first pardon when he comes to Phoenix next week for a rally.

The Associated Press asked the offices of Arizona’s two senators and nine congressional representatives as well as Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to reveal their views on a possible Arpaio pardon.

Three of the state’s four Democratic representatives wrote a letter to Trump urging him not to pardon Arpaio. The fourth, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, said the former sheriff should be held accountable but did not address the possible pardon or criticize the president over the possibility of granting one.

Republican Reps. Paul Gosar and Trent Franks described the case as a political prosecution and supported a pardon.

The offices of the other Republican members of Arizona’s congressional delegation didn’t respond to interview requests, including Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake and Reps. Andy Biggs, David Schweikert and Martha McSally. Ducey didn’t talk to reporters before leaving for an event Friday.

“He has no prior convictions, no criminal record, no record of wrongs,” Franks said in a statement on the 85-year-old Arpaio. “In his twilight years, he deserves to retire peacefully and enjoy the satisfaction of a hard-earned and honorable retirement.”

Gosar issued a statement saying, “Supporting and upholding the federal immigration law should be the gold standard in law enforcement, and that’s exactly what Joe did. In the end, Joe’s crime was upholding the rule of law. A pardon is just and right in this circumstance.”

Arpaio was trounced in November after 24 years in office and found guilty last month of a misdemeanor contempt-of-court charge for defying the courts. The conviction stemmed from Arpaio’s decision to prolong immigration patrols after a judge in a racial-profiling lawsuit ordered him to stop them.