Two county sheriffs are among the leading advocates in Massachusetts of the Trump administration’s efforts to ramp up deportations of undocumented immigrants.
Under a federal partnership, the sheriff’s departments in Bristol and Plymouth counties are getting trained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcementtoapprehend, detain and assist with deportation of illegal immigrants who are being held in their jails.
It's a program that was created 20 years ago and which President Donald Trump wants to expand. Enlisting local police, he has said, will cast a wider net as his adminstration follows through on promises to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.
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“The president said our role is probably the most critical because we know the players in our communities and we know how to find them,” Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson said.
President Donald Trump is taking a hard-line approach to deportation. Under his direction, the Department of Homeland Security has outlined an expansion of a policy adopted during President Bill Clinton's time in office, known as 287(g).
Earlier this month, Hodgson, a Republican, met with the president and other sheriffs from around the country to strengthen partnerships between federal and local law enforcement agencies with the goal of getting undocumented immigrants off the streets. Plymouth County Sheriff Joe McDonald, a Republican who has held the position since 2005, has also signed on.
Opponents say it isn’t fair for state resources to be used to enforce federal laws and that it opens the state up to liability of Fourth Amendment violations for reasonable search and seizure. Another concern is that the enforcement effort will makeundocumented immigrantsafraid to call the police when they need help.
“This is about ripping apart people’s families,” said Carl Williams, staff lawyer at ACLU Massachusetts.
Williams challenged the Trump administration’s classification of “criminal illegal aliens,” saying politicians were using strong language to make people more comfortable with the idea of mass deportation.
Defendants held in county jails are mostly waiting to have their cases heard and are still innocent until proven guilty, he added. But those same people will be processed and detained for immigration violations no matter their alleged crimes.
Massachusetts’ overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature is considering turning the Commonwealth into a sanctuary state. If successful, the measure would block the state from working with federal immigration agents except in specific cases, and would hold back on funding those efforts.
Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement to Metro that he opposes making Massachusetts a sanctuary state.
Until last year, none of Massachusetts’ law enforcement agencies, from the state down to the municipal level, participated in the ICE partnership. That changed in June, when the state Department of Corrections signed on, and the Bristol and Plymouth sheriffs did the same on Jan. 18.
Hodgson, Bristol County’s sheriff of 20 years, argues the program will help his officers better comply with federal laws. He will be recruiting other law enforcement agencies to get on board, he said.
He is no stranger to controversy, and is working on another plan to send inmates to Texas to help build the border wall Trump has proposed. Hodgson has also been sued over a plan he had to charge inmates daily for room and board.
On the immigration issue, he is just as adamant.
“There has to be a distinct difference between those who do it the right way and those who don’t,” Hodgson said. “If there isn’t, you’re telling people behind borders doing the right thing, that they’re a bunch of suckers and we don’t care about our laws.”