Bristol County Sheriff’s Partnership With ICE Terminated by DHS
DARTMOUTH — The Department of Homeland Security has ended its 287(g) agreement with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, putting an end to the partnership between Sheriff Thomas Hodgson’s agency and Immigration and Customs Enforcement that allowed the BCSO to house federal immigration detainees at its facilities and participate in immigration enforcement.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas sent a memo to Acting ICE Director Tae Johnson announcing the end of the partnership, as well as the end of a similar agreement in Georgia with the Irwin County Detention Center.
“Allow me to state one foundational principle: we will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention,” Mayorkas wrote.
In the memo, Mayorkas said that at the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center in Dartmouth, the “treatment of detained individuals and the conditions of detention are unacceptable” and that the center itself “is of minimal operational significance to the agency.”
“We have an obligation to make lasting improvements to our civil immigration detention system,” Mayorkas wrote. “DHS detention facilities and the treatment of individuals in those facilities will be held to our health and safety standards. Where we discover they fall short, we will continue to take action as we are doing today.”
The Carreiro Immigration Detention Center made headlines just over a year ago when on May 1, 2020, an incident with a group of detainees led to a melée that caused about $25,000 in damages. The Sheriff’s Office said the detainees were showing signs of potentially having COVID-19 refused to be tested for the coronavirus; the detainees said they were protesting being sent to solitary confinement or the facility’s medical unit, which they claimed was unsanitary.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey launched an investigation into the incident on May 5, 2020. Her office released its 60-page report in December 2020, describing “institutional failures and poor decisions” by leadership at the sheriff's office that culminated in a “calculated use of force” that “unnecessarily caused or risked harm to everyone involved." The report found that the BCSO had violated the civil rights of the federal immigration detainees, and recommended a series of reforms, including the termination of the 287(g) partnership between DHS/ICE and the BCSO.
Hodgson struck back at the report upon its release, calling it “baseless” and “politically motivated.” He called Healey a "political hack," and accused her of "creating a false narrative of the incident."
Healey then shot back that if Hodgson disputed the accuracy of the report, “he should immediately release all of the video footage, incident reports, and other evidence related the incident to the public – instead he is fighting against their release in court,” she said, noting a court battle by the ACLU to have the video footage released.
Healey said on Thursday that her office reached out to Secretary Mayorkas last month “to share the report findings and ask DHS to terminate its contracts with BCSO.”
“We commend DHS for ending its partnership with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, which has a long history of abuse and neglect of immigration detainees. Our extensive investigation and advocacy have made it clear that the Sheriff’s Office is not willing to take any steps to protect the rights and safety of detainees, and that ICE must sever ties with BCSO,” Healey said. “This decision under the Biden Administration ensures that the civil rights of immigrants are protected and not violated in a callous disregard for human life and dignity.”
Hodgson issued a statement in response to the DHS decision to end his office’s partnership with ICE, and is also holding a press conference tomorrow morning outside the detention center.
“Shame on Department of Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas for putting his left-wing political agenda above public safety by ending the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” Hodgson said. “This is nothing but a political hit job orchestrated by Sec. Mayorkas, the Biden administration and other anti-law enforcement groups to punish outspoken critics and advance their partisan agenda to score political points.”
“This decision puts the people of Bristol County, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the United States of America at greater risk of being victimized by criminal illegal aliens. While Sec. Mayorkas and the Biden administration are turning their backs on the people of Bristol County and our great nation, I will not,” he said.
Any civil immigration detainees remaining at the facility will be transferred to other locations. The Bristol County Sheriff’s Office has already been removed from the ICE website’s list of agencies with which it has 287(g) agreements.