A civil rights watchdog filed a lawsuit against controversial Massachusetts Sheriff Thomas Hodgson last Thursday.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice filed the lawsuit after submitting several requests for information pertaining to the sheriff’s department’s participation in a program with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The program would teach law enforcement officers and personnel to interview and identify illegal immigrants detained as inmates. While the aim of the initiative is ostensibly to prevent dangerous foreign criminals from being released back onto American soil, its critics say it leads to racial profiling and discrimination.
“The public has a right to know how this sheriff is attempting to enforce federal immigration law, how scarce taxpayer dollars are being squandered and whether he is engaging in racial profiling of immigrant and minority communities,” said Sophia Hall, a staff attorney for the organization.
Hodgson took responsibility for the department not providing information to the Lawyers’ Committee.
“I take full responsibility for that,” he said. Claiming that his office had been “inundated” with requests, he went on to say, “Obviously, we fell short on meeting the deadline.”
The Sheriff, who is a Republican, according to The Washington Post, announced the beginning of the program in January. When pressed by the Lawyers’ Committee to hand over documents pertaining to cost and utilization, Hodgson’s office responded by saying requests would be handled by an attorney and take between “seven and 10 business days to complete.”
The program had been in existence since 1996 before being “suspended indefinitely” by former President Barack Obama.
Since taking office, Trump has breathed fresh air into the program, intending for it to complement his rigorous and no-nonsense approach to illegal immigration.
“ICE has limited manpower,” said Hodgson in January. “By having this immediate access, we want to make sure we have every tool in our toolbox to identify anybody who is a threat from being released.”
Sheriff Hodgson attracted attention from news media at the beginning of the year after pledging to send some of his inmates to assist in the construction of President Trump’s proposed “border wall.”
“I can think of no other project that would have such a positive impact on our inmates and our country than building this wall,” said Hodgson after being inaugurated.
“Aside from learning and perfecting construction skills, the symbolism of these inmates building a wall to prevent crime in communities and across the country, and to preserve jobs and work opportunities for them and other Americans upon release, can be very powerful,” he continued.
A staff counsel for the ACLU in Massachusetts, Laura Rotolo, called Hodgson’s proposal “perverse,” saying it was probably unconstitutional and illegal in a multitude of ways.
Rotolo, unfortunately, either didn’t pick up on or chose not to ridicule the irony of using forced labor to “preserve jobs” for hardworking and law-abiding American citizens.
Hodgson says more information about the ICE program will be released when it takes effect in summer.