A private Senate bill for Sir John

“Sir” John Gerard Hodgson

On April 18, 2013, halfway through the Obama Administration, a group of senators known as the Gang of Eight stood before cameras in a Senate conference room, confident that their immigration reforms would shortly become a reality. At precisely the same moment in another room, Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (named for both a Confederate president and general) had organized a parade of county sheriffs, including Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson, to lobby against the reforms as a gratuitous “amnesty” for “criminal aliens.”

When it was his turn at the microphone (set up by Session’s aide, Stephen Miller), Hodgson painted a picture of five million people patiently waiting in lines outside American borders to become citizens — and another twelve million dangerous, criminal aliens living among us, “disrespecting” American laws. Hodgson invoked his Anglo-American heritage: “My father immigrated from England, and he raised thirteen children here.” Hodgson later told PRI: “My father didn’t walk around the streets hiding every time a police car came by, put his head down or what have you. My father came the right way.”

Hodgson went on to blast undocumented immigrants as filthy, disease-ridden burdens on their communities: “Illegal immigrants are creating public health hazards, public safety concerns,” Hodgson said, “living in homes, one-room apartments with three families, taking mattresses off the streets that are infested with bedbugs, filling our emergency rooms for lack of a better care and costing the taxpayers millions and millions of dollars.” The Gang of Eight’s immigration reforms were scuttled.

But Hodgson was not only lying about immigrants — but also about his “model immigrant” father.

Actress Tina Alexis Allen, Hodgson’s youngest sister, published a memoir in 2018. Her story of family trauma and recovery is hers alone to tell. But “Sir John” Hodgson, as he insisted on being called — the sheriff’s father, Knight of the Holy Sepulcher, Vatican courier, a man who carried four passports and racked up half a million miles a year in travel — is a central character in both Allen’s memoir and in Tom Hodgson’s mendacious narrative of immigration done the “right way.” Allen’s recounting of her father’s immigration to the United States and how a fourteenth Hodgson child immigrated to the United States reveal her brother the sheriff’s narrative as nothing but a tale woven out of whole cloth.

From Allen we learn that her father “Sir John” frequently claimed to run the War Office in British-mandate Palestine (as a then 24 year-old) and that Hodgson became an American citizen — not by waiting in line or immigrating the “right way” — but by courting and eventually marrying an American nurse two years older than himself and wrangling a transfer to Washington DC. That nurse, a native of New Bedford, MA, not only gave “Sir John” a sure path to citizenship as a male “war bride” but her family connections in Bristol County helped pave the way for her son Tom to burrow his way into the county’s political establishment.

Matt Cameron, a Boston immigration attorney, disputes historical revisionists like Tom Hodgson who claim there is an equitable and orderly immigration line. “Where is this line? Where does it start? How long is it? Are there bathrooms?” Cameron points out that, thanks to overtly racist policies before 1965, Anglo-Saxons like Hodgson’s father were always preferred. “You can whitewash your own family history all you want, but it’s always been this way.”

It also helps if you’re a rich white man who can game the system with high-level connections.

In 1954 — when Tom Hodgson was three months old — “Sir” John Gerard Hodgson and Anne Marie Hodgson adopted a 10 year-old Anglo-Arab orphan named Victor Charles Joyce, the son of an Army comrade of Hodgson’s, and a child who did not qualify for naturalization under existing immigration quotas.

While the elder Hodgson could have made his adoptive child wait in line until it was his turn, “Sir John” instead used his connections with U.S. Maryland Senator John Marshall Butler, who like himself was a virulent anti-Communist, and whose campaign Joseph McCarthy managed. Butler officially notified Arthur V. Watkins, Chairman of the Senate Immigration and Naturalization Subcommittee on the Judiciary, that he had filed a private bill for Hodgson. From the Congressional Record:

Dear Arthur: on June 23 I introduced Senate bill 3652 at the request of Mr. and Mrs. John G. Hodgson, American citizens residing in Maryland at 5 East Irving, Chevy Chase, Md., for the purpose of bringing their adopted son, Frances Timothy Mary Hodgson, age 11 years, from the Franciscan Orphanage in Jerusalem, Jordan, to the United States of America.

“At the time of adoption, it was assumed that the adopted son be charged to the Jordan quota and could enter the United States under fourth preference of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which is at present open. When petition was filed, birth and baptismal records showed that the boy was born on June 13, 1943, in Nazareth, Palestine, which city is now in the State of Israel. The fourth preference for the State of Israel is oversubscribed and bill S.3654 has been introduced to permit Francis Timothy Mary Hodgson, adopted son of John Gerard and Anne Marie Hodgson to enter the United States under the fourth preference quota for the Jordan Kingdom as he has resided in Bethlehem and Jerusalem since shortly after birth in Nazareth. Records show the boy was baptized in Bethlehem (Jordan) July 5, 1944.”

The bill was not drafted to provide a non quota visa but it was felt that as the adopted child resided in Jordan all his life, that he could be charged to the Jordan quota.

On August 19, 1954 Hodgson’s private bill quickly moved from one express line to another in the U.S. House of Representatives (relevant portions of Congressional Record here) — a courtesy for a fellow “Anglo Saxon” immigrant.

Interestingly, Butler went out of his way to argue that this special legislation for Hodgson was not really an effort to bypass immigration quotas, but that the boy had lived in a formerly Jordanian part of Israel “all his life” — a kindness Tom Hodgson today is not prepared to extend to DACA recipients.

When asked to help place this maneuver in historical context, immigration attorney Matt Cameron noted that “today’s closest analogue might be the Special Immigrant Juvenile process, a fourth-preference visa available for minors who were abused, abandoned or neglected by one or more parents (many are orphans). As with the fourth-preference beneficiaries from Israel, SIJ from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador (the countries which have benefited by far the most from the program) is seriously oversubscribed and wait times are now well over two years.”

“Given that this process is available for qualifying individuals up to the age of 21, I would guess that hundreds of SIJ-eligible people have been locked up in Hodgson’s disgrace of a jail over the years and deported either before they had a chance to apply or while waiting ‘in line’ for a visa in the same category as the one that his family had no problem manipulating to their benefit 65 years ago.”