Unlike the anti-sanctuary cities bill, Governor Haslam signed into law a bill sponsored by Sen. Mark Green and Rep. William Lamberth which prohibits municipalities from creating their own local identity card programs and the use of any local identity card to be accepted as proof of “citizenship, immigration status or residency.”
This bill, the very last one passed by the General Assembly before adjourning “sine die” meaning until the new two year session beginning in January 2019, was passed by reconciling the House and Senate passed versions of the bill. The Senate passed the conference committee version by a 25-3 vote and the House passed it 69-9-1.
Local identity card programs have become a popular program in sanctuary cities to help illegal aliens appear as if they are lawfully present. In other cities the cards have also helped illegal aliens avoid arrest and possible deportation during traffic stops.
During Nashville’s last mayoral race, all of the candidates including Megan Barry endorsed creating a local identification card program that would include illegal aliens.
The bill version Lamberth passed out of committee included a specific reference to prohibiting the use of the matricula consular card being accepted as an identification document because as Lamberth pointed out, the cards issued by the Mexican government, cannot be run through any databases available to U.S. law enforcement.
During testimony in committee by the co-Directors of the TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), opposing Rep. Lamberth’s bill, admitted that immigrants who primarily rely on the matricula card are “people who do not have immigration status.”
While the bill Haslam signed into law no longer includes a specific reference to consular cards, another part of the Tennessee Code states specifically that the matricula consular card cannot be accepted as proof of identification to get a Tennessee driver license.
Without valid proof of identity as determined by the law just signed by Haslam, or a drivers license, illegal aliens driving without either, are at risk for arrest. Protectionist immigration lawyers like Elliott Ozment in Nashville have repeatedly warned that an illegal alien driving without a license can end up in deportation proceedings.
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.”
TIRRC told the House committee that they have worked with Metro Nashville police to recognize the matricula consular cards and encourage accepting them for identification purposes. TIRRC also informed the committee that the Mexican consulate hosts visits to Tennessee monthly to issue the matricula consular cards.
In Cincinnati, working with local law enforcement and city officials, Catholic Charities is producing and providing a municipal ID card to immigrants in the city who don’t have or can’t obtain U.S. government identification.
With the signing of HB2312, local identity card programs will have to be authorized by the Tennessee General Assembly.