Univision's Jorge Ramos debates Arizona State Rep. Steve Montenegro on the pardon of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Sunday's State of the Union on CNN:
TAPPER: Joining us now is Steve Montenegro. He's a Republican state senator from Arizona. We also have with us Jorge Ramos, the anchor of Univision.
Gentlemen, thanks for joining us.
Senator Montenegro, let me start with you.
STEVE MONTENEGRO (R), ARIZONA STATE SENATOR: Thank you.
TAPPER: Arizona has two Republicans in the U.S. Senate. Both of them came out against the pardon of Sheriff Arpaio done this way.
Senator Jeff Flake tweeting -- quote -- "Regarding the Arpaio pardon, I would have preferred that the president honor the judicial process and let it take its course."
Senator John McCain was even blunter. He tweeted -- quote -- "The president's pardon of Joe Arpaio, who illegally profiled Latinos, undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law" -- unquote.
Senator, why, in your view, are your two Republican U.S. senators wrong about this issue?
MONTENEGRO: Well, thank you for having me, Jake, first of all.
And there's longstanding disagreements between those gentlemen and Sheriff Joe. I don't want to get in the middle of that. But I can tell you that there's also congressmen here in Arizona, like Congressmen Trent Franks, Congressman Paul Gosar, Congressman Andy Biggs, who have lauded and stand strongly behind the president's decision to pardon Sheriff Joe.
And, look, what's on display here is, frankly, the hypocrisy from the left. you know, we had President Obama pardoning hundreds of thugs. You had President Obama -- I think his name was Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was a convicted unrepentant terrorist.
And where was the outrage from the left then when he was pardoning thugs and murderers and unrepentant terrorists like that?
But you have here an 85-year-old man who, frankly, has served his country since he was 18. And the best the left can come up with after they do political persecution on him is a misdemeanor, who even then that was, I don't think -- I don't believe that was done correctly through the judicial process.
What we're seeing here is outrage on one end, a double standard, but not -- not when it comes to actual terrorists or unrepentant thugs and terrorists, like Oscar Lopez Rivera.
JORGE RAMOS, UNIVISION: I think Senator Montenegro is forgetting that he's an immigrant from El Salvador and that Sheriff Joe Arpaio discriminated against many people just like you, Senator.
By pardoning Arpaio, President Trump is defending racism. Arpaio violated the Constitution. He discriminated against Latinos. He was convicted of a criminal contempt of court.
And not only that. The Department of Justice, ACLU, two judges agreed that he practiced and promoted racial profiling. In other words, he was accused of racism.
Sheriff Arpaio discriminated against thousands of Latinos. He destroyed many homes. And that's precisely, that's precisely the man that, in the middle of a hurricane, President Trump pardoned.
MONTENEGRO: Well, Jake, let me respond to that. I do remember that I'm an immigrant myself. And, frankly, Sheriff Joe has endorsed me in my campaigns in the past
and supported me for years as well. So, this narrative that the left tries to push that Republicans are racists, look, if you're looking at the screen right now, and you think I'm a white Republican, you need to adjust your screen.
This is the narrative that the left continues to push against Republicans, and it's simply not true. And, frankly, look, the judges that were -- that started this case in the first place, first of all, the judge should have recused herself, because she had a family member that was part of the original lawsuit against Sheriff Joe.
She should have recused herself in the first place. And then, when it comes time to have a jury or a trial, the Obama administration takes this case and doesn't even allow there to be a jury or a trial by jury. Again, there's so many things. Sheriff Joe would have won this case on appeal, because the process was very grossly neglected.
RAMOS: That is not true.
MONTENEGRO: But, again, folks like Jorge, they use these talking points -- they use these talking points against Republicans about racism.
And, look, I can start doing this interview in Spanish if we want to. I'm a Republican. Does that make me a racist? No. I'm an immigrant myself. Does that make me a racist? No.
It's just that we respect the rule of law. We want to make sure that we are obeying, that we are upholding the best of the process that we have in this country.
TAPPER: Jorge, go ahead.
RAMOS: But you're not respecting the rule of law right there, Mr. Montenegro, because the fact is that Sheriff Arpaio is a convicted criminal and he was accused of racism.
And I -- your last name is in Spanish, Montenegro, not in English. And I find it really disturbing and sad when an immigrant like you decides to turn his back on other immigrants and forgets where he comes from.
MONTENEGRO: And I find it disturbing when folks like you...
TAPPER: Senator, Senator, let Jorge -- let Jorge finish, please.
Go ahead, Jorge.
RAMOS: You had the chance, Mr. Montenegro, and President Trump had the chance to be on the right side of history, and that is with tolerance, with diversity, with democracy. And you, Mr. Montenegro, and President Trump decided to be on the wrong side of history, and that is with racism and with discrimination. And that's precisely what happened when President Trump pardoned Arpaio.
TAPPER: Go ahead, Senator.
MONTENEGRO: Again, this is part of the narrative. I mean, the left -- they resort to personal attacks when they can't stand on facts. I mean, the Republican Party here in Arizona I was the majority leader in the House of Representatives. That's the Republican Party not being racist.
I'm a statewide candidate right now for secretary of state for the Republican Party. That's not racism. This narrative that Republicans are racist, it's what the liberals and the left resort to when they have -- when they're left out of facts.
When they have nothing to stand on.
RAMOS: You're defending someone who has been accused of racism, Mr. Montenegro.
MONTENEGRO: No. I'm --
RAMOS: You're defending Donald Trump, a person who accused Mexican immigrants for being rapists and criminals. And that -- you know precisely that is not true. So, you are defending Arpaio, who has been accused of discrimination, depending President Trump, who has been accused of racist remarks. Those are the people you are defending, Mr. Montenegro, an immigrant from El Salvador.
MONTENEGRO: Jorge, in this country we follow the rule of law. In this country we believe that everybody has the right to a process, to be charged. If they're going to be charged to a process that's going to --
RAMOS: He was charged. Arpaio was charged.
MONTENEGRO: Correct. And there was a judge who should have recused herself because she had -- the original family member was one of the folks that started the lawsuit against Sheriff Joe. And then when it's time to actually do the trial, as the constitution states, we need to make sure that we either do it -- if it's going to be criminal -- which, by the way, this happens in other countries, Jorge.
RAMOS: This is a long process. This has been a long process, Mr. Montenegro.
MONTENEGRO: This happens in other countries. It's called political persecution. This happens in other countries. It's called political persecution.
RAMOS: No, it's not political persecution. It's called discrimination.
MONTENEGRO: When folks don't agree with you, they use the judicial system to try to destroy you.
RAMOS: It's not political persecution.
MONTENEGRO: That does not happen in this country. In this country, we follow the rule of law. And make sure we have a system.
And this is not about racism.
RAMOS: What Sheriff Arpaio did is discrimination, Mr. Montenegro. What Sheriff Arpaio did is --
MONTENEGRO: Like I said --
RAMOS: -- discrimination.
And let me just say something about President Trump because I think that if President Trump wanted to distance himself from racism, he had a great opportunity and he just didn't use it. Not only he pardoned Arpaio but this happened after he refused for two days to condemn by name the KKK, this happened after he equated white supremacists with those marching against racism. This happened after he called very fine people those who decided to march with neo-Nazis and after that, he pardoned Arpaio.
What I'm really concerned, Jake, really, really concerned is that with these actions, President Trump is making racism something normal. And by defending someone who has been accused of racist behavior, like Arpaio, he is telling everybody in the United States, you know, it is OK.
It is OK. Racism is OK in this country. And I'm really disturbed and concerned about that. (CROSSTALK)
RAMOS: Because if President Trump is doing that and Arpaio are doing that then what's the message for the rest of the people who voted for Donald Trump?
MONTENEGRO: Well -- and let me add to that.
Look, I think Americans are seeing right through this. This doesn't have to do with racism. This is the left having a double standard.
When we have the left --
RAMOS: It's racism.
MONTENEGRO: When we're talking about the left pardoning thugs, unrepented terrorists, when we have the left cheering for that, when we have the left cheering for the pardoning of traitors that give away secrets that put in danger and in peril Americans and everybody in this country and they cheered just because a man wants a sex change, I mean, that is what's on display here. The hypocrisy from the left, the hypocrisy and the left trying to make racism an issue when the fact is that we are a country of the rule of law.
RAMOS: Mr. Montenegro, you are defending a convicted criminal accused of racism.
TAPPER: OK --
MONTENEGRO: No, you -- where was your outrage when President Obama was pardoning unrepented terrorists, Jorge? Where was your outrage --
RAMOS: You are defending, Mr. Montenegro --
TAPPER: Jorge --
RAMOS: -- you are defending a convicted criminal.
MONTENEGRO: Where was your outrage --
TAPPER: If I could -- if I could just interject myself for one second. Jorge, before we go, I just wanted to check in. Because obviously at the beginning of the Trump campaign, you famously clashed with then candidate Trump at a news conference. He told you to sit down and go back to "Univision."
TAPPER: Obviously, now, we are eight months in to the Trump presidency -- or seven months and change. The Latino community has been able to actually take measure of his time in office.
What's your read on how he is being received by the Latino community in this country, in general?
RAMOS: My read is that we were right when we detected racism when President Trump said that Mexican immigrants were criminals and rapists and when he told you, Jake, that Judge Curiel couldn't do his job simply because he's a Latino.
That again as you mentioned, back then, the definition of discrimination and racism. So, I'm sorry to say that we were right. I'm sorry to say that what we detected on June 16, 2015, is happening here.
Because it has followed a pattern -- not only his criticism of immigrants but then what he said about Judge Curiel and then what -- how he responded to the violence in Virginia and now his pardon to Arpaio. I'm wondering what's next.
Maybe DACA, maybe a wall. Who knows? Jake --
TAPPER: Senator Montenegro, before I let you go I really would love to know what you would like President Trump to do when it comes to the so-called dreamers, the immigrants that were brought into this country illegally when they were children, they were given temporary status by President Obama. President Trump has a decision to make. What do you want him to do when it comes to the dreamers?
MONTENEGRO: Well, really quickly, you know, again, what we're seeing right here is the left trying to make this about racism. And I think that even Hispanics -- the president received more support from Latinos this last election than many because they're able to see right through it as well.
And I think that the president -- you know, the decisions that he's going to make are based on the rule of law in this country. We are a country that respects the rule of law.
RAMOS: It is about racism, Mr. Montenegro.
MONTENEGRO: We can't -- we can't -- we cannot expect Americans in this country to take the fall for decisions that have been made from other families, you know? I think that the president is going to look at the information that he has. And he's going to make the right decision, based on what our country needs, on what is right for our families whether --
RAMOS: Mr. Montenegro, you were brought here when you were five years old.
MONTENEGRO: That's correct. And I came here legally.
MONTENEGRO: -- Jorge --
RAMOS: And then you don't want other immigrants like you, dreamers like you who came here when they were very young? You don't --
MONTENEGRO: I thought I could finish my thoughts, Jake.
RAMOS: The same opportunities that you had? Mr. Montenegro, you were brought here when you were five.
MONTENEGRO: Of course we want that.
RAMOS: Why not give the same chance to others?
MONTENEGRO: Jorge, this is what --
TAPPER: Jorge, just let --
(CROSSTALK) MONTENEGRO: They don't allow us to finish speaking. The opportunities here --
RAMOS: Please go ahead.
MONTENEGRO: -- Hispanics, Latino families come to this country because they respect the rule of law. In other countries they do not respect the rule of law. That's why people come here so the law protects everybody.
And I think that when it comes to personal attacks like the ones that Jorge makes, you know, people see right through that. We are a country that's better than this. We're better than this.
TAPPER: All right --
MONTENEGRO: And I think as time goes by, we'll be able to see that.