The Department of Homeland Security today announced it will cut all ties with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office in Massachusetts, including ending a contract to house immigration detainees there and ending a so-called “287(g)” contract. The announcement comes after advocacy by the Massachusetts congressional delegation, led by Senator Elizabeth Warren, and a recommendation from the Massachusetts Attorney General—and after the ACLU, the NAACP New Bedford, and advocates with Bristol County for Correctional Justice called on the Biden administration to stop detaining immigrants there.

Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, today released the following statement in response:

“The end of ICE contracts with Bristol County is a long overdue and critical step in decoupling Massachusetts law enforcement from federal immigration enforcement. It is particularly important because it strips Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, who carried out the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda with zeal, of custodial responsibility for detained immigrants.

“Our immigration system locks up hundreds of thousands of immigrants unnecessarily every year, separating people from their loved ones and exposing them to inhumane conditions of confinement. We are heartened by the Biden administration’s termination of these contracts, and the ACLU commends Senator Warren and Attorney General Healey for their commitment to the issue. By shuttering detention facilities with a track record of problematic conditions and ending local collaboration with ICE, we can work together toward a fairer and more humane immigration system.”


The ACLU has long advocated for the end of 287(g) programs nationwide because they are wasteful and harmful to communities. There are three other 287(g) contracts in place in Massachusetts—with the Plymouth and Barnstable sheriffs and the state Department of Corrections. The Department of Homeland Security should end all of these contracts promptly, and if it does not, the Massachusetts state legislature should move to end them.

The ACLU has also long fought against the harsh and unnecessary detention of people who are in immigration proceedings, especially in facilities with problematic conditions of confinement. Last month, the ACLU called on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas to close 39 Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities, including the Bristol County Detention Center in Massachusetts. Media reports, lawsuits, and community complaints have documented poor treatment of immigrants detained at Bristol County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) facilities under Sheriff Thomas Hodgson. Most recently, the Massachusetts Attorney General found that the BCSO violated the civil rights of detained people by using excessive force during a violent incident in May 2020. As a result, the Attorney General recommended that DHS terminate ICE’s contracts with BCSO “as expeditiously as possible.” The Massachusetts Senate subsequently found that, following that incident, BCSO unlawfully barred a state senator from conducting an oversight visit to the facility. The ACLU of Massachusetts has sued the BCSO for records about that incident, which resulted in the hospitalization of three detainees. BCSO is refusing to release those records.

Earlier this month, advocates from the NAACP New Bedford and Bristol County for Correctional Justice, along with the ACLU of Massachusetts, called on the facility to be shuttered, citing the problematic detention conditions in a new video. Additionally, BCSO’s immigration detention unit has already been substantially depopulated, and there is no practical justification for its continued existence.

The ACLU of Massachusetts also supports local legislation to further end local collaboration with federal deportation efforts.