Metro Nashville Legal Director confirmed today that the proposed sanctuary city ordinance BL2017-739 cannot stop the sheriff from turning illegal aliens over to ICE after they’ve been arrested. However, for illegal aliens living in Nashville who open borders advocates claim are forced to break Tennessee’s driver licensing law, the ordinance could help keep them out of deportation proceedings.
The proposed Metro Nashville ordinance prohibits the collection of immigration status information by any “department, board, commission, officer, or employee of the metropolitan government of Nashville and Davidson County, including law enforcement officers,” unless required by federal or state law or by court order.
The Metro Nashville ordinance closely tracks Seattle’s municipal code prohibition currently being tested with the city suing to challenge the President’s Executive Order that takes on sanctuary cities.
If no immigration status information is collected, then Metro Nashville will be in compliance with the federal law governing communication exchanges “regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.”
That is, unless the Tennessee General Assembly chooses to try and pass an Arizona type “show me your papers” law or simply bar local prohibitions on information collection as a way to ensure compliance with the “broader cooperative scheme between local, state, and federal officials” intended by Congress to promote public safety.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld one part of an Arizona statute allowing police, while enforcing other laws, to question a person’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country illegally.
According to Metro Nashville Police Chief Anderson, the department’s policy when interacting with immigrants, is that “[i]mmigration status is not a relevant consideration in most interactions with immigrants” except in a potential “arrest situation” where:
Verification of identification is most often the significant consideration in determining eligibility for a citation in lieu of continued custody.
Without valid proof of identity as determined by state law or a drivers license, illegal aliens driving without either, are at risk for arrest.
…drivers who are uncertain about their immigration status may face a much more serious consequence: deportation.
According to records from the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, discretionary arrests of immigrants who do not have a driver’s license may result in unwanted attention from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. After a criminal defendant is brought to jail and fingerprinted, his or her information is automatically shared with ICE officials. At least 127 of those arrests led to investigations by ICE officials.
Ozment confirms that “[i]n Tennessee, driving without a license is a criminal offense” and advocacy efforts have persisted to stop enforcing this part of the state’s criminal code against illegal aliens:
In a two-year period between 2014 and 2017, Nashville police charged over 9,700 Hispanic drivers for driving without a driver’s license. Notably, there is some police discretion involved in whether an individual driving without a license will be cited and/or arrested. Officials claim they are not making arrests based upon an individual’s perceived immigration status.
Yet our Tennessee immigration law firm questions whether police offers are given guidelines or training in how to apply their discretion when they discover an individual is driving without a valid driver’s license. If you have concerns about this issue or are facing deportation, make sure you have an experienced immigration attorney to fight for your rights.
Proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residence is required to get a Tennessee drivers license. State law specifically disallows the DMV from accepting “matricula consular cards as proof of identification for driver license application and issuance purposes.” The matricula consular card is an identification card issued by Mexico’s consulate offices for its nationals living abroad.
During her campaign, Mayor Megan Barry endorsed creating a municipal identification program for illegal aliens. In some cities this local government sanctioned form of identification is being accepted by police so that traffic-related stops result in citation instead of an arrest. Tennessee Sen. Mark Green and Rep. Sheila Butt have filed a bill which prohibits a local-government issued card from being used for identification purposes, as proof of residence, to vote, or to “obtain public assistance benefits.”