DARTMOUTH — Two protestors were arrested and a local activist ejected from Wednesday’s public meeting with the Bristol County sheriff as the audience peppered him with questions about his participation in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement 287(g) program.
Members of the public who had signed up in advance had the opportunity to meet with Sheriff Thomas Hodgson and his 287(g) steering committee at the Dartmouth correctional complex.
They critiqued Hodgson’s cooperation with ICE and asked about the cost, the treatment of detainees, and the jail’s method of addiction treatment.
“The majority of crimes in this community are by citizens and people who are here legally,” New Bedford attorney Betty Ussach said. “And that you’re concentrating your efforts, in a very important position, working with ICE, really gets the community going, and I hear lots of community aggravation about that, and questioning.”
Ussach and several others who spoke are members of a local group, Bristol County for Correctional Justice, that has been critical of Hodgson’s management of the jail complex in Dartmouth. Another was a member of United Interfaith Action, and another a former pastor of a local Friends Meeting.
Annual public forums are required under the 287(g) program, which deputizes local law enforcement as ICE agents for the purpose of referring detainees to immigration.
As for the budget, Hodgson said he makes a profit — which the state takes — of $8 per ICE detainee per day. The federal agency provides more money than it costs him to house immigration detainees, he said.
Six Bristol County officers have been trained and deputized by ICE. When a person born outside the United States is arrested for a crime, the officers investigate to determine whether he or she should be referred to immigration, Hodgson said. Then, ICE determines whether the person will be held.
ICE has taken 18 people into custody in Bristol County since January 2017, when Hodgson signed the agreement to cooperate with federal authorities under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. But the Dartmouth facility houses far more — almost 200 right now — who have been shipped here from outside the county.
Claudia English, a detention and deportation supervisor for ICE who was part of the sheriff’s panel on Wednesday, said that since January 2017, 801 people in Bristol County have been screened for immigration violations, and 74 have been subject to some kind of action, such as appearing before a judge. Of the 18 subsequently taken into ICE custody, 12 have been removed from the United States.
Among their alleged crimes, she said, were possession of firearms, firing a firearm, indecent assault and battery on a child, and possession to distribute drugs.
A decade before Hodgson joined the voluntary 287(g) program, he was housing immigration detainees in Dartmouth. He opened a $3.2 million immigration facility at the correctional complex in April 2007.
Near the start of Wednesday’s meeting, a woman in the audience got up and walked to the front of the room, demanding in a raised voice an end to family separation. Uniformed officers removed her from the meeting after she ignored Hodgson’s attempt to quiet her.
“I’m not finished!” she shouted as officers pulled her out the door.
A man who attempted to unfurl a banner at the front of the room was also escorted out.
Jon Darling, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, later told reporters that two people, Arely Diaz and Max Grear, were arrested and taken to the Ash Street Jail in New Bedford on charges of trespassing, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. They were released on personal recognizance at approximately 1:30 a.m. Thursday and were due in New Bedford District Court on Friday, he said.
Both are affiliated with a Rhode Island activist group called The FANG Collective.
Marlene Pollock, a member of the Coalition for Social Justice, asked about the cost of the ICE program and other issues. Later, she was ejected from the meeting for interrupting Hodgson multiple times.
Amy DeSalvatore of Fairhaven went to the microphone to say that Hodgson’s facilities do not offer the full complement of medically assisted treatment for opiate addiction, and that without it, people are more likely to re-offend and to die of an overdose.
“These are our families. This is our community,” she said.
Hodgson’s facilities do administer the medication Vivitrol, which can be given after detoxification, but the facilities do not administer other common medications such as methadone and buprenorphine.
The sheriff said medically assisted treatment is controversial, and that in a jail setting, it is labor intensive. Officers have to watch an inmate for 10 minutes as the medication dissolves in the person’s mouth. Eighty percent of the people in his facilities have some kind of drug involvement, he said.
Hodgson said he is watching to see what happens with a pilot program for medically assisted treatment in other Massachusetts jails.
But he will not apologize for the 287(g) program, he said.
“I hope more and more agencies adopt 287(g), because all it is, is about people already brought into our jails, already arrested, and ultimately identified as not having respected the laws of the United States,” he said.
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