PRESS RELEASE | July 29, 2020
Across New England, Groups Demand Reps Defund Sheriff Hodgson
“There is a direct line of white supremacy and oppression that runs straight from the White House to our local county jail.”
Contact: Megan Fountain, firstname.lastname@example.org, Rafael Pizarro, email@example.com
New Haven, CT; Boston, MA – As DHS abuses are exposed in Portland, and more reports of deadly conditions arise in ICE detention camps, groups in Massachusetts and Connecticut are calling on their reps in Congress to take immediate action to prevent more harm, and cut off DHS funds in the region to Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, in order to protect the lives of people in his and DHS custody.
On Wednesday in New Haven, CT, activists and family members of immigrant detainees delivered a letter signed by 50 organizations, primarily from Connecticut and Massachusetts, to Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro highlighting the many abuses committed by Sheriff Hodgson and his known ties to white supremacist groups. Members of ULA explained that many Connecticut residents detained by ICE are transferred to the immigrant prison in Bristol County run by Hodgson.
That same day, many of the Bristol County and Boston labor, faith, and civil rights groups that signed and supported the letter joined a press conference laying out the various abuses carried out by the nativist Sheriff, and called on their Congressional representatives to shut off DHS funds that enable the abuses taking place “from Portland to Plymouth.”
“My question for our legislators is at what point do you stop trusting this man with our tax dollars? How high must these abuses pile up before you start recognizing Sheriff Hodgson is a dangerous man who shouldn’t be trusted with people’s lives,” asked Rafael Pizarro of the Bristol County for Correctional Justice coalition.
“That time has long passed. We demand that the federal tax money provided to him are shut off. And we implore our elected officials to defund hate, defund DHS, and stop Hodgson,” said Pizarro.
Dr. LaSella Hall, President of the New Bedford NAACP highlighted the long history of abuses committed by Sheriff Hodgson,
“For over two decades the sheriff has consistently violated the rights of everyone held in jails and prisons in Bristol County. The May 1st incident which is currently under investigation by the Massachusetts AG is merely the latest in a long series of outrages.”
“No one should be surprised. Sheriff Hodgson sits on the board of FAIR, an openly white supremacist organization. His best friend in the White House is Stephen Miller. There is a direct line of white supremacy and oppression that runs straight from the White House to our local county jail.”
Brian Concannon, a Massachusetts-based human rights attorney and Executive Director of Project Blueprint, made clear that Congressional representatives were failing to provide even basic oversight and accountability of DHS in the region, which US law would mandate had it occurred abroad. “No doubt if this sheriff was in another country, we would be shutting off funds under the US Leahy law,” explained Concannon.
Under federal law, Congress is required to cut US foreign assistance funds for police officers and units where there is evidence of grave human rights violations. No such actions have taken place for the myriad abuses committed by Sheriff Hodgson, or his ties to extremist groups.
This week, despite the abuses witnessed in Portland and numerous instances of rogue behavior by ICE, CBP, and the sheriffs they fund, the US House has been unable to pass legislation to significantly cut funds for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that houses the various federal agencies.
The fifty organizations (listed below) signed the letter (below) calling on MA and CT members of Congress to take action to stop DHS funding to Sheriff Thomas Hodgson that has enabled abuse in the New England region and promoted a white nationalist agenda nationwide.
OPEN LETTER TO MEMBERS OF U.S. CONGRESS IN NEW ENGLAND
It's time for Congress to Stop Sheriff Hodgson
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.
Bristol County for Correctional Justice
Unidad Latina en Accion – Connecticut
National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)
NAACP New Bedford
Black Lives Matter – BLM New Bedford
Cape Cod Coalition for Safe Communities
Never Again Action Boston
Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (RFK Human Rights)
American Friends Service Committee
Immigrant Legal Resource Center
Detention Watch Network (DWN)
Sheriffs for Trusting Communities
Hartford Catholic Worker
Zen Center North Shore
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Rian Immigrant Center
CT Shoreline Indivisible
Jewish Voice for Peace – New Haven
Middlesex Immigrant Rights Alliance
Center for Youth Leadership
New Haven Leon Sister City Project
Advancement Project, National Office
Salem No Place for Hate
Washington Defender Association
Black & Brown United in Action
Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA)
Unitarian Universalist Mass Action
Families Belong Together
National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA)
Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
Brazilian Women’s Group
United Action Connecticut (UACT)
Main Street Congregational United Church of Christ
Green Party of Clinton, CT
First Parish Cambridge: Beyond Borders Sin Fronteras
Paulist Center Immigration Advocacy Group
Rev. Joe Amico, Tabernacle Congregational Church, United Church of Christ
Rev. Nathan Ives, St. Peter’s/San Pedro Episcopal Church
Rabbi Brian Immerman, Congregation Mishkan Israel
Rabbi Michael Rothbaum, Congregation Beth Elohim