Bristol Sheriff Offers Inmates’ Help Building Border Wall

Thomas Hodgson, anti-immigration crusader, finds himself back in the spotlight with a pitch to Donald Trump.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson gestures during a news conference in regard to the "Secure Communities" program, or "S Comm", held by Massachusetts county sheriffs at the Statehouse in Boston, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011. The program is designed to immediately check the immigration status of those arrested for crimes. Opponents say it will lead to profiling.(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Photo via AP

Wow, somebody had a big day! Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson made himself an unlikely superstar yesterday when he announced his (totally normal and fine!) proposal to ship Massachusetts inmates to the Mexican border and help Donald Trump build the 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,” he said Wednesday“Aside from learning and perfecting construction skills, the symbolism of these inmates building a wall to prevent crime in communities around the country, and to preserve jobs and work opportunities for them and other Americans upon release, can be very powerful.”

Very.

Hodgson—who has popped up frequently in the media over the past few years due to his proximity to the Aaron Hernandez trial, zingers aimed at politicians, and a few controversies over his harsh approach to law-and-order—says he talked this over with some other sheriffs, who he hopes will be equally interested in the inspiring power of Mexico-adjacent prison labor. There are still specifics missing, among them how much doing this would cost, and where the wall-building inmates would live. He pitched the plan as part of a work program called Project NICE, or National Inmates’ Community Endeavors. He’s reached out to Trump, and hasn’t heard back.

The border wall, in case you missed it, is a proposal to render the 2,000 mile crossing impassable (much of it is already blocked by natural barriers, and there are hundreds of miles of border fencing in place already). The new proposed wall could be dozens of feet high and made of solid materials, as rally attendees were told this year. Much of it could also just be your garden variety fence, according to some more recent statements from the president-elect. The theory is still that the Mexican government will succumb to Trump’s dealmaking prowess and pay for it.

He shared his plans on the night of his swearing-in ceremony, after an introduction from Gov. Charlie Baker. Baker through his staff said he had “not been briefed on the sheriff’s proposal.” Said spokesman Billy Pittman: “The Baker-Polito Administration is thankful for the valuable community service inmates in Bristol County have provided through work programs and would prefer they continue to offer those services closer to home.” Baker, a Republican, did not support or vote for Trump.

The ACLU, which only in rare circumstances has a proposal before it more antithetical to what it stands for, is irate. Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, pledged that if the plan came to fruition, her organization “is prepared to use every tool in our toolbox, including litigation, to stop him.”

Her full statement, to Fox 25:

Sheriff Hodgson’s proposal to use the labor of the men and women in his custody do ‘build the wall’ is perverse, inhumane and likely unconstitutional. It has nothing to do with helping people in Massachusetts, and we hope his constituents join us in demanding a retraction.

Not only is Sheriff Hodgson willing to get involved with Trump’s racially discriminatory plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, he is proposing to use modern-day slave labor to do it. The men and women incarcerated at the Bristol County House of Corrections are mostly poor people and people of color. The idea of sending them to build a wall to keep out other people of color who are fleeing violence or devastating poverty is abhorrent.

If Sheriff Hodgson follows through on this shameful plan, the ACLU of Massachusetts is prepared to use every tool in our toolbox, including litigation, to stop him.

There’s more! Hodgson, who has a history of advocating for immigration crackdowns, is ramping up partnerships with federal immigration authorities. His office joined an Immigration and Customs Enforcement program late last year that will grant new immigration enforcement powers to officials in his jurisdiction, who would aid in efforts to identify and round up people who are in the country illegally. He once called then-Gov. Deval Patrick’s stance on the Secure Communities program (another such partnership between local and federal authorities) “moronic.”

Watch his comments here, via SouthCoast Today.


Spencer Buell Staff Writer at Boston Magazine sbuell@bostonmagazine.com