Bristol County Sheriff reported Dartmouth church to the White House

Dec 10, 2019

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson told the White House that he spotted immigration rights pamphlets at his own Dartmouth church, according to recently released emails. 

The email, one of hundreds released by the American Civil Liberties Union as part of a public records request to the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, was sent to Trump administration policy advisor Stephen Miller — who is a key player in setting the Trump administration’s immigration policies — in 2017. 

In the email, Hodgson relayed to Miller that while attending mass at St. Julie Billiart Church on Slocum Road in August 2017, he observed a holder on a table inside the church marked “ICE-Immigration,” which contained three stacks of colored cards.

Although the specific contents of the pamphlets are unclear, Hodgson described them in a phone interview as containing information on immigrants’ legal rights when confronted by immigration authorities. 

A photo Hodgson provided shows colored cards in three languages — Haitian Creole, Spanish, and Portuguese — with the visible wording outlining topics including a right to access to an attorney before answering any questions. 

Hodgson defended the email, stating that he believed his duty as a sworn law enforcement officer dealing with the topic of immigration made him obligated to report what he saw to the White House. 

“It’s perfectly within the right and realm of the church — that’s not my place to judge the church — but I’m simply making sure those who create policy in Washington understand everything happening about immigration in our communities,” Hodgson said. “They should be aware of it.” 

St. Julie’s Father Richard Roy did not return requests for comment. John Kearns, Director of Communications for the Fall River Diocese, said the pamphlets were not a Diocese-organized initiative and was done so independently by St Julie. 

In an emailed statement, however, the Diocese noted such projects are within the teachings of the Catholic Church. 

“The Catholic Church has consistently taught of a moral obligation to provide support and care to newcomers among us,” the statement read. “Providing information to non-English speaking persons to help them understand their rights under U.S. law is but one example of a parish putting this teaching into practice at the local level.”

It is not the only time Hodgson has informed the White House about immigration advocacy on the local level. In another email exchange, Hodgson alerted Miller to the Immigrants Assistance Center in New Bedford after the organization scheduled an event to help Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) designees reapply to the program.

Other emails among the hundreds released as part of the public records request for emails between Hodgson and the White House include the sharing and praise of media appearances and policy initiatives by both Hodgson and Miller. 

In one email, Hodgson told Miller “We are on the side of the angels” in reference to a bill filed in the state legislature to grant state and local law enforcement and court officers the authority to make arrests and holds off of ICE detainers. And in another email, Hodgson praised Miller’s appearance on cable news.