Lawmakers Move To Block Plan To Use Inmate Labor To Build Border Wall

A prison guard on horseback watches inmates return from a farm work detail at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, La.

A prison guard on horseback watches inmates return from a farm work detail.

(REPORT) — A plan by a Massachusetts county police sheriff to send inmates in his custody to build President Donald Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexican border is being fought by two separate bills in the state Congress that would render the police chief’s plan unfeasible.

“I can think of no other project that would have such a positive impact on our inmates and our country than building this wall,” Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said at his swearing-in ceremony for a fourth term in office in January a few weeks before Trump’s inauguration.

“Aside from learning and perfecting construction skills, the symbolism of these inmates building a wall to prevent crime in communities around the country, and to preserve jobs and work opportunities for them and other Americans upon release, can be very powerful.”

But after Trump followed through on his campaign promise to build the wall by signing a directive ordering its construction in late January, two state lawmakers introduced two bills to block the state from sending inmates to build the controversial wall.

Massachusetts Senator Michael Barrett and Representative Antonio Cabral cosponsored a bill in the past few days that would require sheriffs sending anyone in their custody out of Massachusetts to first receive approval from state officials.

But Cabral also introduced a separate bill that would flatly prohibit Massachusetts prisoners from laboring out-of-state, local media reported. Barrett said Hodgson’s proposal was “intended to be outrageous” and described his bill as an effort to “calm the waters.”

“I think that one likely development we’ve got to keep an eye on is the appearance of mini-Trumps all around the country,” Barrett told a local broadcaster. “I think the Trump era is not just about the new president, it’s about a style of policymaking by provocation and outrage.

He argued that politicians across the country will be eager to “stir the pot” in order to be rewarded by the White House and the president.

Meanwhile Cabral said such plans would not be “the best use of resources of Massachusetts, and certainly, it’s not the best experience for inmates that are presently under our custody in Massachusetts.”

Hodgson reportedly pushed back against the bills and said, “we don’t really need the oversight of a senator or someone else to tell us that we can’t help other communities and other states when they’re in times of need.”

The wall was one of Trump’s main campaign promises, vowing to make Mexico pay for building it. He had said that most of the immigrants from Mexico were “rapists” and “drug dealers” and that the wall would stop their flow into the country.

After signing his executive order for constructing the wall, his administration admitted that Mexico will not be paying for the wall but that Washington might impose a 30 percent border tax on imports from its southern neighbor to pay for the wall.

Trump’s order also resulted in a diplomatic standoff between the two countries as Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled a visit to Washington after a phone call with Trump a few weeks ago in which the U.S. president reportedly told him “We are going to build the wall and you all are going to pay for it, like it or not.”

© teleSUR

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