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Civil rights group suing sheriff for immigration enforcement records

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson listened to inmates being held for deportation.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson listened to inmates being held for deportation. Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff/File

A civil rights group said Thursday that it was suing Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson’s office to get public records about the agency’s efforts to help federal immigration agents find and deport illegal immigrants being held in jail.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice said it has not been able to get records about Hodgson’s participation in an agreement with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in what it says is a violation of the state’s public records law.

“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,” Sophia Hall, staff attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee, said in a statement.

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Hodgson apologized late Thursday afternoon and said the information the group requested is being prepared and sent out by a legal team.

“We are responsible for falling short on this, and we feel badly that we did,” he said. “They will get their information right away.”

Hodgson took issue with the idea that his office had tried to withhold information requested by the group, and said it was an operational problem, stemming from a lack of resources.

“We fell short on our standards of meeting the deadline. We should have met it, we didn’t meet it, and I’m not happy with it,” he said. “Whatever it is in the request, we will be sending them everything that we have.”

He added, “We hope that it’s what they need.” But he also noted, “There are some things we won’t be able to offer because our program hasn’t even started. Much of what they asked for is premature.”

The suit sought information on topics including “how much taxpayer money is being spent by Sheriff Hodgson on this program, who is being investigated and detained as a result, and where enforcement activities are occurring,” according to the civil rights group.

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Hodgson announced in January that his office would join a program, known as 287(g) for the section of the law that authorizes it. He said at the time that he would put eight to 12 corrections officers on the program.

Authorities said at the time that after four weeks of basic training, the officers would work for ICE while carrying out their regular duties at the jails. The Plymouth sheriff’s office also said in January that it would join the program, training two to three officers to participate.


Steve Annear of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andyrosen.