Roger Marolt: Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo puts human rights above federal orders |

Roger Marolt: Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo puts human rights above federal orders

What do you think about those who helped Jewish people escape from Germany under the Nazi reign? Hopefully you feel the same way about them as you do about the people who helped slaves escape from their “owners.”

Those do-gooders were criminals. They deserved jail time for what they did, and many got it. They blatantly and knowingly broke the laws of their respective lands. The Jews were considered dangerous threats to the human race. Slaves were considered property, and so if you helped or harbored them, it was felony theft. Even if the law is unjust, you have to abide by it until you might be able to change it.

Laws are laws. Nonetheless, there were cases in both Nazi Germany and the pre-Civil War south, where officials sworn to uphold the law not only ignored their duties to do so, but worse, some were even hands-on participants in sheltering Jews and salves from their prescribed lawful fates. Can you imagine using your governmentally endorsed power to actually thwart the law that you were sworn to uphold?

OK, obviously I am being facetious her; at least I hope it is obvious. Anymore, I would not doubt that some might have read the foregoing paragraphs and uttered, “Right on and Roger that. He’s finally coming around!”

Good citizens who rescued Jewish friends, neighbors and even complete strangers from the Nazis who prescribed concentration camps as a prerequisite to death by any number of inhumane ways are unquestionably heroes of the highest order. The same is true of the blessed souls who mercifully risked all to lead escaped slaves out of harm and the unenlightened white man’s way.

The courage and moral conviction necessary to purposefully defy authority at the possible expense of personal discomfort and economic loss is not a game for the weak. It truly is the stuff of heroes.

I am not talking about garden-variety lawbreaking or monkey-wrenching here. I am talking about rescuers guided by an exceedingly accurate moral compass who recognize right now what society in general will see at some point in the future looking backward, most likely through the pages of history books. Since the outcome of the action cannot be fairly judged by many in the moment that action is necessary, it requires all the more strength of conviction on the person taking the action. This is what makes the action heroic. If everyone was doing it, laurel wreaths would be a fashion statement.

Now, I’ll get right to my point: our sheriff, Joe Disalvo, is a hero for standing up to our federal government which many see as engaging in a broad overreach of authority in trying to bully communities into enforcing their alarmingly heavy handed notion of immigration “reform.”

While most will agree with the examples of bravery by ordinary citizens in the cases with aiding runaway slaves and persecuted Jews, some of DiSalvo’s detractors have drawn a distinction with him since he is an officer of the state who has sworn an oath to uphold the law. It is heady stuff. After all, a person is only as good as their word.

Thankfully, an officer of the law in this country, at least, still has the latitude to interpret enforcement of the law under the humane lights of fairness and justice and, in fact, should always do so, no matter what.

According to Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock in support of DiSalvo’s stance on refusing to incarcerate people based on citizenship questioning, “Such an arrangement would violate Article 10 of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the federal government from compelling state and local governments to administer a federal regulatory program. … Holding someone in jail solely on the basis of immigration status is not legal because it’s a civil matter and not governed by a judicial warrant.”

As far as DiSalvo keeping his word to uphold the law, it appears he not only has a good argument to back up the claim that he is, in fact, performing his sworn duty, but also upholding the Constitution while he’s at it. That’s good enough for me.

I did not vote for DiSalvo expecting him to stand up against the federal government’s request to help with their enforcement of this current shortsighted executive order on immigration. But I am certainly glad that he has. To be honest, I could never have imagined that it would come down to anything like this. My feelings on voting for political candidates is to place a higher value on personal character than platforms. While views on policy may change based on circumstances, integrity doesn’t. Thankfully, we chose the right guy here, at least.

Roger Marolt knows Joe DiSalvo is risking a lot to take a just stance and is grateful for that. Email at

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.

For tax deductible donations, click here.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User


See more