Major failings in Sheriff Hodgson’s agreement with ICE

Jun 4, 2019

To the Editor:

On February 8, 2017 and with a stroke of his pen, Sheriff Thomas Hodgson made the Bristol County House of Correction one of the first county jails in New England to have the authority to detain inmates for immigration violations under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act section 287 (g).

Under the agreement, section 287 (g) deputizes Bristol County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) employees as deportation agents allowing them to:

  • ·    Interview individuals to determine their immigration status;
  • ·    Search for and enter data into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) database;
  • ·    Issue ICE detainers (or “immigration holds”), which allow the sheriff to hold a person for up to 48 hours for ICE to pick up and transfer to a detention camp, even if the charges are dropped and;
  • ·    The BCSO acts as a detention camp holding immigrants from across the country.

A review of Sheriff Hodgson’s Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) reveals failings related to compliance and oversight. Four major failings include:

First, people of color—whether U.S. citizens, immigrants, or undocumented—are subjected to racial profiling, discrimination, and civil rights violations. There are a number of provisions in the MOAs for which there appears to be a lack of compliance; most notable is the requirement that 287(g) programs offer a complaint mechanism for individuals who believe they have been aggrieved in the implementation of the program, and community oversight appears to be ignored.

Second, the sheriff is only a sheriff, a person elected to manage a jail. ICE has not established adequate oversight of State and local law enforcement agencies that are the delegated authority to enforce Federal immigration laws—and not the sheriff. The terms of oversight appear to be unnecessarily vague and confusing, and without requisite standards, measures of accountability or adequate protection for the rights of persons present in the United States.

Third, lack of notice and information about the right to file a complaint. There are no clear guidelines in the sheriff’s MOA that allocate responsibility for determining the circumstances under which a complaint will be forwarded to Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General and Department of Justice. The MOA provides no direction for individual or supervisory responsibility for any part of the process, nor does it set forth a means to track the process of the complaint, as there appear to be no checks in place to ensure resolution of complaints.

Finally, the 287 (g) program is too costly for Bristol County taxpayers, let me explain.

According to the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), Bristol County taxpayers are the ones footing the bill for BCSO personnel to receive ICE training, as well as, the “overtime” pay for those personnel performing the duties of regular employees who are away receiving that specialized training.

The MOA states, “The BCSO is responsible for personnel expenses, including, but not limited to, salaries and benefits, local transportation, and official issue material…including overtime, of all of its personnel being trained or performing duties under this MOA and of those personnel performing the regular functions of the participating BCSO personnel while they are receiving training.”  

Also, taxpayers in Bristol County are on the hook “for covering all expenses at the BCSO facility regarding cabling and power upgrades…the BCSO will be responsible for covering any installation and recurring costs associated with the BCSO line…for providing all administrative supplies, such as paper, toner, pens, pencils, or other similar items necessary for normal office operations…for providing the necessary security equipment, such as handcuffs, leg restraints and flexi cuffs, etc.” The entire BCSO MOA can be accessed at:

Interpreter services are another taxpayer burden. According the MOA, the BCSO will provide ICE detainees “with limited English language proficiency…an interpreter. Qualified foreign language interpreters…means an interpreter who can interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, using any specialized vocabulary.” Average hourly rates for interpreters range from $30-$80 per hour depending on the type and location of the work. Sheriff Hodgson shows no respect for hardworking taxpayers.

With no sound, effective and rational leadership at the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, legislative oversight at the State House is highly recommended.

Eileen J. Marum