On Wednesday, April 11th, the Tennessee State Senate will consider updating and closing loopholes in the state’s law prohibiting sanctuary cities. Sponsored by Sen. Mark Green, SB2332 will make it harder to shield criminal illegal aliens in Tennessee.
In June 2017, the Metro Nashville Council was working to pass an ordinance that would have made Nashville the most liberal sanctuary city in the country. The ordinance, drafted with help from the TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), proposed instituting a practice of “don’t ask so you don’t have to know or tell” which would prohibit Davidson County and Nashville employees, including law enforcement, from providing pertinent information to ICE regarding criminal aliens.
Metro Councilman Colby Sledge, one of the two chief co-sponsors of the ordinance is married to the co-Director of TIRRC.
The proposed ordinance was withdrawn, however, due to overwhelming grassroots opposition and pressure from state legislators, but a 2017 report released by Openthebooks.com still lists Nashville as a sanctuary city.
Tennessee’s current anti-sanctuary city law passed in 2009, only prohibits written policies that obstruct cooperation with federal immigration authorities. It’s not clear whether this narrower definition of “sanctuary city” would have applied to the proposed Metro ordinance.
Other states like Georgia which also adopted a sanctuary city prohibition in 2009, expanded this statute after Kate Steinle was killed by an illegal alien in San Francisco. The definition of “sanctuary policy” included in Green’s bill is similar to the one the Georgia legislature added to its statute in 2016 two years ago.
Like Georgia’s statute, Green’s bill expands the definition of a sanctuary city leaving little doubt that practices which obstruct cooperation with federal immigration authorities and which help shield illegal aliens who have committed other crimes, will be prohibited in Tennessee.
Shari Rendell, State and Local Director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), has alerted Tennessee legislators to the fact that the proliferation of sanctuary city policies and practices come in many different forms:
Sanctuary policies come in all shapes and sizes. Some are written; some are not. Some are enacted through local law, while others masquerade as ‘welcoming’ resolutions; some even appear as internal law enforcement agency policy. Despite these differences in appearance, the uniting factor is that sanctuary policies place a greater emphasis on the welfare of illegal aliens than the welfare and safety of citizens and legal residents in their own communities.
FAIR has identified five distinct reasons why state and local leaders should oppose sanctuary policies:
- these policies threaten public safety – according to ICE estimates, roughly 2.1 million criminal aliens are living in the U.S. of which over 1.9 million are removable but continue to live in communities and engage in further criminal activity when state and local law enforcement are prohibited from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.
- these policies are expensive – sanctuary policies enable illegal immigrants to go undetected and encourages more illegal immigration. Illegal immigration is a huge burden to state and local governments; in 2017, illegal immigration was estimated to have cost Tennessee taxpayers almost $800 million dollars.
- these policies conflict with federal law – in 1996, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act to prohibit state and local governments from obstructing cooperation with federal immigration authorities and shielding criminal aliens.
- these policies threaten national security – when state or local governments impede cooperation with federal immigration officials, they create an environment where terrorists and other criminal aliens can go undetected. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has acknowledged that ‘an unsecure border is a vulnerability that can be exploited by criminals of all kinds.’
- these policies are unfair to legal immigrants – providing a safe have to illegal immigrants including criminal aliens is unfair to immigrants who respect our country’s laws and are following the employment, health and processing laws to enter the country legally.
The TRAC-Immigration (Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse) project compiles federal agency data accessed through Freedom of Information requests. ICE data from fiscal year 2003 – 2016 shows that over 22,000 detainer requests were issued by ICE for illegal aliens arrested in Tennessee. Of the total, almost 7,000 were issued in Davidson County although ICE detainer requests during this period of time were issued in counties across the state including Rutherford, Hamilton, Sumner, Hamblen, Blount, Sevier, and Warren counties. Of the total number of detainer requests issued to transfer custody of an criminal illegal alien to ICE, over 10,000 had been convicted of crimes including drunk driving, assault, burglary, fraud, drug trafficking and sex offenses.
The ICE detainer request, authorized by federal law, serves as an administrative warrant. The detainer request is based on a prior determination of probable cause that the illegal alien is subject to being removed from the country. Recently, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Texas sanctuary city statute and specifically, that no Constitutional rights are violated when local law enforcement officials comply with an ICE detainer request.
Sixty-seven Republicans in the House are named co-sponsors of the House companion bill HB2315, including the bill’s sponsor Rep. Jay Reedy. The bill has stalled in the House State Government Committee but will be taken up again on Tuesday, April 10th. If passed by the House committee, the bill will be scheduled for a vote on the House floor.
Both the Senate and the House must pass the bill before it can be sent to the Governor for his signature.
The TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, their lawyer Nathan Ridley and the committee’s Democrats have spoken against the bill. Ridley’s wife Connie Ridley is the Director of the General Assembly’s Legislative Administration.