Massachussetts sheriffs reject Governor’s soft approach to illegal criminals

“The governor is out of touch on this issue, and he really and truly does not represent the interest of the people of Massachusetts…”  -Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson.

Sheriffs ditch Gov., get tough on immigrants

Boston Herald
John Zaremba: Sept. 25th, 2011

Three defiant Bay State sheriffs hell-bent on tougher immigration enforcement have taken an end run around Gov. Deval Patrick, traveling to Washington, D.C., to hammer out their own version of the Secure Communities program in a stinging rejection of the administration’s stand on illegals.

“The governor is out of touch on this issue, and he really and truly does not represent the interest of the people of Massachusetts on this issue,” Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said. “We’re basically saying to the governor, ‘Look. You’re entitled to your position.’ But the governor doesn’t elect us. We represent the people of our counties who elect us to do our job — public safety.”

Hodgson, along with Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph D. McDonald Jr. and Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis, bartered their deal late last week in a series of meetings with federal officials in Washington. They emerged with a deal that would, among other things, train county corrections officers to run the recently collared through Immigration and Customs Enforcement databases.

“It’s not Secure Communities, but it’s a perfect substitute,” said McDonald, whose friend and Plymouth County cohort, District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz, is fighting to extradite Luis Guaman, an Ecuadorian illegal who authorities say murdered a Brockton woman and her toddler son in February, then fled to his homeland hours later.

“I certainly hope we’re making our position clear to the public at large and reassuring them that we’re going to do our jobs,” McDonald said. “And I hope the governor is getting the message as well. We in public safety take this very seriously, and we’re going to get the job done.”

A spokesman for Patrick declined to comment on the sheriffs’ deal. It comes three months after the governor, through his public-safety secretary, told Homeland Security officials he would not enroll Massachusetts in the Secure Communities program. Immigrant advocacy groups had lobbied the governor to reject the crackdown, saying it could discourage immigrants from reporting crime and lead to racial profiling by police.

Secure Communities, which Boston police have used since 2006, requires police to run criminal suspects’ fingerprints through an immigration database to check whether they are in the United States legally, and it requires local agencies to share data on those suspects with immigration authorities. Mayor Thomas M. Menino has threatened to remove the city from the program unless it is limited to those accused of serious crimes.

The program will go into effect nationwide in 2013, but the sheriffs said there’s no reason to wait until then.

“We feel we want to start working with that information now, not a date that’s not imminent,” said Evangelidis. His jurisdiction includes Milford, where an Ecuadorian illegal was charged with drunken driving in a crash that killed a 23-year-old man last month. “I’m more convinced than ever that this is an exceptional tool for public safety that law enforcement in Massachusetts should have immediately.”

-— john.zaremba@bostonherald.com

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