Some illegal immigrants flown to Mass. stay in-state awaiting asylum claims


( -- The national immigration debate continues to spill over into Massachusetts.

First on FOX 25, it was revealed that illegal immigrants are being flown into the state, and Sunday it was revealed that some of the undocumented immigrants arrested at the border are being allowed to live in Massachusetts while they wait to learn if they can be granted asylum.

The Bristol Country Sheriff is calling on sheriffs across the country to express their concern over a recent influx of illegal immigrants being transported to communities across the US from the border.

The crisis south of the border is having a ripple effect across the country and Massachusetts sheriffs like Thomas Hodgson of Bristol County tell FOX 25 that he influx of immigrants they've received in the last few weeks from south Texas is causing concern.

"We have everything to be concerned about with regards to public health, and our public safety with regards to the people coming in here, not knowing their backgrounds, not knowing their medical conditions," Hodgson said.

In a statement to FOX 25, US Immigration Customs and Enforcement said"

"To date, a total of four contract flights transporting recent border crossers arrested in Texas have landed in Massachusetts since April. The flights were coordinated by ICE air operations to take advantage of available detention space in the New England area of operations. The majority of detainees on these flights have already been returned to their native countries."

FOX 25 confirmed in June that seven flights filled with immigration detainees had landed at Hanscom and Logan airports.

At the time, ICE would not say why these planes were stopping here, or where the immigration detainees are going after they arrived.

But Hodgson says buses from his facility had been used to transport them, and that about 80 adult illegal immigrants from San Antonio were sent to the Bristol County detention center in the last three weeks.

The sheriff also says his counterpart in Plymouth county has received more than that.

Sheriff Joseph McDonald's office confirmed Sunday that he's seen a jump in illegal immigrants at his jail, sometimes dealing with 100 detainees or more at a time.

"The administration is not being fully forthcoming with local communities who are inevitably going to be affected by their failure to get control of this crisis surge at the border," said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies.

ICE tells FOX 25 the increase in border crossings in the southwest required a national response and New England provided support where it made "logistical sense."

In addition, FOX 25 has learned a small percentage of those detainees have been released on bond while their asylum claims are heard.

Sheriff Hodgson and Vaughan say that could mean taxing already backlogged immigration courts and law enforcement.

"It's going to sap up a lot of the resources for our own correctional facilities in Massachusetts, and it's also going to mean local immigration enforcement is going to suffer because they have to use all their resources to accommodate all these people," Vaughan said.

Perhaps one of the largest concerns is the potential cost to taxpayers on a federal level for all of this.

As detainees are flown to communities across the country, President Obama awaits congressional approval for almost $4 billion to deal with more than 50,000 illegal children who have crossed the border.

Governor Patrick's office told FOX 25's Crystal Haynes that they have nothing to do with the issue.

FOX 25 also reached out to the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refuge Advocacy Coalition on the matter and had not received a response as of Sunday evening.

In the meantime, Hodgson said he's headed to Texas on Tuesday to meet with other sheriffs and ranchers in the southwest to see how they are dealing with illegal immigration there.