Nashville Mayor Megan Barry released a statement Tuesday morning asking the Metro Council to reconsider an ordinance that would restrict local cooperation with federal immigration officials.
The ordinance passed on a second reading last week and is up for a final vote July 6.
Barry was acting in response to a formal legal opinion issued Monday by Metro Law Director Jon Cooper stating that the ordinance could not be applied to the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office. Barry said:
It is clear from this legal opinion that BL2017-739 does not apply to Sheriff Daron Hall, who has said he will continue to honor detainer requests from the federal government. Additionally, the Metro Nashville Police Department has concerns that the ordinance would prohibit them from recommending U visa applications for immigrants who are victims of crime and willing to help put dangerous criminals in jail. Losing that law enforcement tool could jeopardize public safety and would run counter to the intentions of the sponsors to make Nashville a more welcoming city for New Americans.
The Metro Council should give serious consideration to these factors and reconsider whether this legislation is appropriate or necessary at this time.
In his legal opinion, Cooper said that the ordinance “would not be legally binding on the Sheriff. Under state law, the Council cannot prohibit the Sheriff from cooperating with federal authorities related to immigration.”
As for U visas for certain crime victims, Metro police and the district attorney recommended 189 such visas in 2016 and 169 so far this year.
“This is an important tool for law enforcement to have the witness testimony necessary to arrest and prosecute dangerous criminals who are a threat to the community,” Barry’s press release said.
Immigration activists rarely publicly acknowledge that this protection is available for illegal immigrants. Instead, they argue that sanctuary cities and amnesties are necessary to make illegal immigrants feel comfortable about contacting police.
Though until today, Barry has stayed quiet about the proposed Metro Council ordinance, she is seen as friendly to illegal immigration.
The proposed ordinance has faced mounting opposition in recent days, including by a majority of state legislators in the House and a budding grassroots movement.