BOSTON (CBS) – Two county sheriffs from Massachusetts are spending a few days in Texas – getting a close-up look at the illegal immigration problem now coming their way.
“We now have a whole re-definition of what a border state is,” says Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson.
“I think we now feel we’re on the front lines with them,” adds Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis.
Both men are talking about recent plane loads of illegal immigrants flown to Massachusetts from the southwestern border for detention in Bay State jails — as they await deportation hearings. It’s a practice only recently acknowledged by Immigration and Customs Enforcement – or ICE.
“And I think that’s the frustration that a lot of us feel,” says Sheriff Evangelidis. “I don’t understand why the federal government isn’t sharing more information with us in our local communities.”
To be clear, there have been no detainees shipped to Worcester – which is not currently approved as a federal holding facility. But the Bristol County House of Correction in North Dartmouth already holds some 150 detainees – both men and women.
“We’ve been told to expect more,” says Sheriff Hodgson, “Potentially two plane loads per month.”
The root of the problem, of course, is the unprecedented flood of illegal immigrants across the southern border of the United States – a crisis forcing the feds to ship overflow detainees elsewhere.
“At what point are we going to be bulging at the seams,” argues Sheriff Hodgson, “and then what are we going to do?”
But in the shorter term, local sheriffs are getting few answers about their arriving guests – who often arrive with little or no screening of their possible criminal background or medical history.
“Well that’s what we’re going down there to find out,” says Sheriff Evangelidis, “because right now we’re not getting much of anything.”
The feds pay Sheriff Hodgson 99 bucks a day to care for each detainee sent to him. But he points to one detainee’s current hospital stay to illustrate the snowballing cost to taxpayers. “Doctors have told us that the cost for his medical care – this one individual – is going to be in the millions of dollars,” says Hodgson.
Both sheriffs insist the gaping holes in our border must be plugged before any serious attention is spent on immigration reform.
They’ll be in McAllen, Texas for the next three days looking at the problem from that end – and vetting it with other sheriffs and the feds.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Karen Twomey reports