Bristol County, Massachusetts, Sheriff Thomas Hodgson has been one of the anti-immigrant movement’s most reliable and visible allies for several years. He recently formalized this affiliation with the movement by joining the National Board of Advisors of flagship anti-immigrant group Federation for American Reform (FAIR).
Publicly available archived versions of FAIR’s website indicate that Hodgson was first listed as an advisor sometime after October 9, 2017–likely after FAIR’s annual advisory board meeting, which typically takes place in late October.
Hodgson’s previous collaborations with FAIR make this a predictable, but still troubling development. In recent years, the anti-immigrant movement has sought to use its influence within law enforcement circles to advance dangerous and discriminatory policies targeting immigrant communities. FAIR and other anti-immigrant groups recognize the unique position sheriffs hold, and seek to harness their power to expand the presence of bigoted “attrition through enforcement” policies across the nation. Hodgon’s new formal relationship with FAIR furthers that strategy.
The Center for New Community detailed FAIR’s law enforcement-focused efforts in its report Crossing the Line, released earlier this year. The report includes Hodgson, who has attended multiple FAIR events outside his jurisdiction and worked with FAIR to organize a press conference for sheriffs in Washington, D.C., in 2014, a collaboration that had not been previously reported. The report also identified Hodgson as one of the sheriffs who has used a personal email address when communicating with representatives from FAIR.
Following Crossing the Line‘s release, The Standard-Times approached Hodgson to discuss his relationship with FAIR. Hodgson told the paper he has never encountered racism while interacting with FAIR officials. A quote from FAIR Executive Director Bob Dane in the very same article contradicts Hodgson’s experience.
Dane pointedly refused to disavow the goal of maintaining or expanding a country’s white majority when asked by the Standard-Times. In fact, he sympathized with white nationalists and other extremists who view immigration as an existential threat. “For many, the question of whether a country loses its majority status is a fair question,” Dane said. “It’s a legitimate policy question for a lot of folks.”
The Standard-Times’s question for Dane was likely inspired by something FAIR founder and white nationalist John Tanton wrote in 1993: “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”
Tanton has not been involved with FAIR’s regular operations for years, but he remains on the organization’s advisory board, now alongside Sheriff Hodgson. However, Dane’s response confirms that FAIR’s senior officials continue to harbor the same racist sentiments.
Hodgson himself has a record of making bigoted and false public statements. He has previously claimed immigrants are “creating public health hazards, public safety concerns.” In his letter inviting sheriffs across the country to his December 2014 press conference, Hodgson outrageously claimed that “25 people in the United States are killed each day by illegal immigrants.” The Center for New Community’s Crossing the Line report details the specious genesis of that statistic:
The origin of this claim can be traced back to remarks made in 2006 by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a far-right demagogue and staunch ally of the anti-immigrant movement. King claims he “extrapolated” the figure from a Government Accounting Office report. The result, however, is a fundamental misreading of criminal statistics. When applied to 2015 crime statistics, King’s extrapolation ludicrously suggests undocumented immigrants—an estimated 4% of the population—are responsible for 58% of all homicides in the United States.
Earlier this year, Hodgson garnered headlines for taking time during his swearing-in speech to propose sending Massachusetts inmates to help build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. As Right Wing Watch noted, a Massachusetts ACLU representative described the proposal as “perverse” and likened it to “modern-day slave labor.” Meanwhile, FAIR officials welcomed Hodgson’s proposal, with FAIR President Dan Stein praising the plan as “really innovative thinking” that “would sure cut down labor costs.”
That border wall may never actually be constructed. However, any existing wall between extreme anti-immigrant groups and the country’s law enforcement appears to be eroding more and more each day.