It's time for Congress to Stop Sheriff Hodgson


Open Letter to U.S. Representatives and Senators in New England

On behalf of the undersigned groups, we call on House and Senate leadership to immediately take action and shut off ICE operations enabling and advancing the activities of Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson. We write this letter as detained immigrants and their lawyers report that Sheriff Hodgson again attacked individuals in his custody with dogs and tear gas or pepper spray in the Bristol facility, leaving three detainees hospitalized, on May 1, 2020.

Sheriff Hodgson’s facility, and the sheriff’s own political anti-immigrant activity, in concert with ICE and known hate groups, serve as a cautionary example. The House and Senate must take action to stop Sheriff Hodgson and reject the meddling of sheriffs in immigration enforcement.

In recent weeks, federal judge William Young ordered Sheriff Hodgson to release 50 ICE detainees, because the Sheriff was putting them at risk of “irreparable harm” (Savino v. Hodgson). Judge Young also ruled that ICE should not send any more immigrants to Sheriff Hodgson’s facility. In his ruling, the judge stated that both Sheriff Hodgson and ICE demonstrated “deliberate indifference” toward the health of the detainees, which violates the Constitution.

While the class action Savino continues to seek the immediate release of all immigrants held by ICE in dangerous, unsanitary, and abusive conditions at the Bristol facility, the court ruling is just the latest evidence that Hodgson’s collusion with ICE consistently runs afoul of constitutional protections provided for all persons, regardless of their immigration status.

In the midst of the pandemic, it is only more clear that lives are at risk and that absent action by outside forces, Sheriff Hodgson, in concert with ICE, would allow people to suffer and die in his custody. But at any time, such an individual — who has shown a reckless disregard for people’s health and lives — cannot have the lives of our loved ones and neighbors in his hands, whether we’re in a pandemic or not.

Sheriff Hodsgon has made clear his ties with known hate groups including FAIR and CIS, organizations founded and advanced by white nationalist John Tanton. 

Surprisingly, little attention has been paid by Congress to the hate groups driving the expanded role of sheriffs in jail deportation programs

like the IGSA, the 287(g), the Warrant Service officer program, or the Basic Ordering Agreements — different names for the same federal overreach. But the collusion and conflation between ICE, sheriffs, and anti-immigrant hate groups has only grown stronger and more dangerous — a fact that is made evident in ICE and sheriffs’ response to the pandemic.

Even as federal courts repeatedly expose patterns of abuse, racist profiling, and warrantless arrests by local law enforcement colluding with ICE, the numbers in migrant prison camps has only increased.

Over the past decade, ICE’s migrant prisons have ballooned to over 50 THOUSAND individuals, without Congressional approval.

And yet Congress has failed to act.

Even earlier this year, when the federal court in the Gonzalez ruling held unconstitutional major parts of ICE’s entire deportation program, “Secure Communities,” the U.S. House and Senate continued to fund and enable the “click and arrest” tactics taking place under every ICE access program. It is outrageous that Sheriff Hodgson can violate the law repeatedly and continue to receive federal funding so that the individuals his department has abused and profiled continue to be detained and deported.

In foreign policy, US federal law under “the Leahy Amendment” would ensure the suspension of all U.S. government dollars to specific units committing grave human rights violations. Will domestic programs have no such safeguards for human rights in the United States itself? For every member of Congress, it is time that we bring human rights home and shut off the federal funding and programs that allow rogue sheriffs like Thomas Hodgson to use his office for political gain, at the cost of the lives and well-being of those in his custody and the surrounding community.

We call on members of the U.S. House and Senate to stand with the thousands of individuals who are detained, harassed, discriminated, and terrorized by Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, by ICE, and by hate groups, and to shut off all federal funds and programs

that enable these officials to endanger people’s health and safety. There is no reason that US federal dollars can continue to assist Sheriff Hodgson advancing an agenda that has no public interest, advances a nativist agenda, and puts lives at risk.