FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — As Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza joined mayors across the country vowing to protect undocumented immigrants despite action proposed by President-elect Donald Trump, one local critic is decrying the pledge as downright dangerous.
On the campaign trail, Trump said he would withhold federal dollars from sanctuary cities that don’t enforce the country’s immigration laws. He’s since seemed to soften his position, however. During a “60 Minutes” interview Sunday, he said he’d be focusing on illegal immigrants who have criminal records.
Bristol County Sheriff Hodgson told Eyewitness News he agrees with Trump’s plan to immediately deport undocumented immigrants who commit crimes and said he was disappointed to hear that several local leaders in Boston and Providence, including Elorza, have vowed to remain what some call sanctuary cities.
“They are basically saying we are going to harbor and conceal people they know to be illegal in their communities. I think it’s very, very dangerous for not only our domestic security, but for our national security,” Hodgson said.
Under Providence’s current policy, only undocumented immigrants who have criminal detainers are handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Those undocumented immigrants who commit civil infractions, misdemeanors or non-violent crimes, or those who commit no crimes at all, are not reported by the city to immigration officials.
“We’ve become a magnet where people who are involved in gangs or drug cartels and so forth are looking for places like that to do their bidding,” Hodgson said, adding that allowing undocumented immigrants to stay has a negative impact on all facets of society from education to healthcare and crime.
Elorza said it’s about keeping families together.
“To us, it is important that every resident can live their lives without fear of being persecuted and that includes our entire immigrant community,” he said. “I want them to know that they are supported and that they are safe here in Providence.”
But Hodgson said it’s all political.
“They’re more interested in advancing their political agenda, not following federal law, instead of taking care of the people they’re charged with protecting,” Hodgson said.
The sheriff is a longtime Republican. But, he said policies shouldn’t be dictated by politics and that safety is his main concern.