Updated March 29, 2017: One sanctuary city mayor took to Facebook to respond to Bristol CountySheriff Thomas Hodgson's calls to arrest leaders of communities that provide safe harbor to illegal immigrants.
Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone called the sheriff's comments "ridiculous" and challenged Hodgson to "come and get" him as sanctuary policies do not violate any laws.
"By all means expose yourself as the sort of jack-booted thug who wants to jail your political opponents for made-up offenses," he said via Facebook.
Curtatone posted his response to the Bristol County sheriff alongside a picture featuring the cartoon character grandfather from "The Simpsons" yelling at a cloud to highlight the futility of Hodgson's arguments.
Originally published March 28, 2017:
In his latest round of shock and awe, a Massachusetts sheriff is calling for the arrest of leaders of sanctuary cites.
But for a sheriff who has charged inmates a fee for room and board and called forprisoners to be used as laborers for President Donald Trump’s border wall, Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson's statements Tuesday weren’t exactly out of the ordinary, and that’s why experts say he could run into some legal troubles of his own.
“The most analogous is Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County who was held accountable and liable for policies very similar to those being espoused and implemented in Bristol,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice in Boston.
Hodgson made his comments Tuesday as he testified before the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on immigration and border security in Washington, D.C
"These officials pledge not to work with, cooperate or even communicate with federal immigration enforcement," Hodgson said.
"As a result, these safe zones have become magnets for illegal aliens, some of which have violent criminal records. At best, sanctuary cities are a direct violation of trust between legal residents and the elected officials who took an oath to protect them at all costs. At the worst, it's careless, illegal and extremely dangerous," he said.
In Massachusetts Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Chelsea and Northampton have declared themselves "sanctuary cities."
"If these sanctuary cities are going to harbor and conceal criminal illegal aliens from ICE...federal arrest warrants should be issued for their elected officials," Hodgson said.
ACLU Legal Director Matthew Segal was almost at a loss for words.
“No, his is not something that people need to be worried about being arrested for. They have violated no federal law,” he said. “I really don’t know what else to say.”
Earlier Tuesday Segal urged sanctuary city mayors to stand strong in the face of funding cuts.Attorney General Jeff Sessions has promised to withhold funding from citiesthat do not comply with federal immigration efforts. His department is already collecting data on cities.
But Espinoza-Madrigal said it’s Hodgson who needs to watch his back – legally speaking.
Pointing to the similarities between Arizona’s tough-on-immigration Sheriff Arpaio, Espinoza-Madrigal saida racial profiling suit facing the Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff’s office has already cost taxpayers there over $43 million and it (or something like it) could happen in Bristol County next.
“The question here is does Bristol County want to support, to the tune of $43 million, the type of bigoted, discriminatory and unconstitutional tactics that their sheriff has espoused and implem here in Massachusetts?” he asked. “As other states and cities and counties are becoming laboratories for justice, Bristol County is becoming a laboratory for bigotry.”
Hodgson has had a few lawsuits of his own: In 2010 a judge ruled he couldn’t charge inmates a $5 per day room-and-board fee, ordering the county to pay out $700,000 in restitution.
Espinoza-Madrigal isn’t the first to draw parallels between the Bristol County sheriff and the infamous Arizona sheriff. Arpaio, like Hodgson, has grabbed headlines for his hardline approach to dealing with illegal immigrants in his border community of Maricopa County.
Arpaio gained noteriety for his controversial programs – he dressed inmates in pink underwear and housed them in tents in Arizona’s desert heat – to name a few as well as for his shameless self-promotion – he named himself “America’s toughest sheriff.”
Before losing the election last year, Arpaio was also known to use the power of his office to target illegal immigrants.
Immigration has been a focus of Hodgson’s 20-year tenure. He built a sprawling detention facility in Dartmouth and Bristol County is currently training its officers to work as pseudo-immigration agentsto aid with the Trump Administration’s amped up deportation efforts.
Earlier this year he stirred up controversy when he proposed sending inmates to Texas to help build Donald Trump’s border wall – he said it would save taxpayer money.
Tomorrow Hodgson meets with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.