Councilman Robert Swope told WTN 99.7 FM talk show host Dan Mandis this week that the proposed “sanctuary city” ordinance would create a new class of citizens that would conflict with existing laws.
The measure, which would restrict local cooperation with federal immigration officials, was passed on a second reading Tuesday and is up for a final vote next month.
Swope has been against the measure from the start, being the only Metro Council member to vote against it on the first reading June 6. Seven other council members joined him this week in voting against it, but 25 voted for it.
“If you are breaking the law, then you need to be punished, not be put into a separate class of citizens that says, OK, well, you can break the law but nobody else can,” Swope said in his interview Wednesday with Mandis.
Swope spoke of the dangers involved in obstructing the sheriff’s ability to detain criminal illegal immigrants for deportation. Opposition to the ordinance is not about “rounding up” Davidson County’s estimated 33,000 illegal immigrants and “throwing them back across any single single border,” Swope said.
In a recent week, 19 illegal immigrants were detained for deportation by the Metro Nashville Sheriff’s Office, Swope said. All had warrants for aggravated assault, burglary, heroin distribution and other felonies. Sheriff Daron Hall has said he is against the ordinance.
The ordinance bars using local government funds, resources, or facilities to help with immigration enforcement “unless such assistance is required by federal or state law or by court order.” Critics say the defiant tone of the measure violates state and federal laws that require the sharing of information.
The ordinance says that local government will only honor an immigration-related detention request if it is accompanied by a warrant. Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) places detainers on illegal immigrants who have been arrested on local criminal charges and are believed to be subject to deportation. ICE began using a new detainer form in April to more effectively communicate with law enforcement agencies.
Swope said the council is still seeking legal advice on the bill as well as for a related proposal that would end a contract allowing the Davidson County Jail to be used as an immigration holding facility. Consideration of the related bill has been deferred until August.