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Mass. sheriff says officials who support ‘sanctuary city’ pledges should be arrested

Bristol Country Sheriff Thomas Hodgson among immigrants being held for deportation at the Bristol County facility in 2009.Joanne Rathe/Globe staff/file

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson called for the arrest of public officials who support “sanctuary city” pledges and refuse to enforce all federal immigration laws in remarks before members of the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

“If these sanctuary cities are going to harbor and conceal criminal illegal aliens from ICE, which is in direct violation of [federal regulations], federal arrest warrants should be issued for their elected officials,” Hodgson told the committee.

Hodgson specifically pointed out the public opposition to immigration enforcement by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, both of whom support “sanctuary city” pledges.

A “sanctuary city” has no formal definition, but generally refers to a community that will not enforce all federal immigration laws.


In a statement, Curtatone said Somerville is not violating any federal laws with its sanctuary status and “no criminal gets a free pass here.”

“But what you will find here is a city and a police force that treats all our residents equally while also respecting the law and our Constitution. We will not waver. We will remain a sanctuary, and we will not be bullied into villainizing our immigrant community,” Curtatone said.

Hodgson was also asked about prosecuting anyone who harbors undocumented immigrants or violates immigration law by Representative Steve King, a Republican from Iowa.

“My answer to that was act on [federal regulations], issue arrest warrants, and we will figure out real fast how popular ‘sanctuary cities’ will be in this country,” Hodgson said.

King himself has come under fire for remarks considered racist, including when he tweeted earlier this month that “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

Hodgson was among those invited by members of the Judiciary Committee to speak on the subject of “Restoring Enforcement of our Nation’s Immigration Laws.”


Along with Hodgson, speakers included Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, Andrew Arthur, a retired immigration judge, and Archi Pyati, chief of policy and programs at the Tahirih Justice Center.

In prepared remarks, Hodgson also called for expanded efforts to deputize local police as immigration agents and toughen security along the Mexican border, among other steps.

Hodgson further criticized public officials who don’t follow federal immigration regulations and support “sanctuary city” pledges as practicing “careless, illegal and extremely dangerous acts done for the sake of political pandering.”

“Longstanding immigration law is crystal clear. It’s a jail-able offense to harbor or conceal criminal illegal aliens from ICE. Those that do so and obstruct federal law enforcement should be arrested and charged,” according to a copy of Hodgson’s remarks.

Hodgson also pointed to the case of Walter DaSilva, who was charged last year in the murder of DaSilva’s 19-year-old daughter. DaSilva had previously served an eight- to 10-year prison term for a previous attempted murder conviction and DaSilva had been deported to Brazil.

Hodgson made headlines earlier this year when he offered President Donald J. Trump the help of Bristol County inmates to build Trump’s proposed wall along the Mexican border.

In prepared remarks, he told House members Tuesday that illegal immigration is the “most dangerous” issue facing the US, threatening national security and creating a tremendous strain on the country.

John Hilliard can be reached at