During Tennessee’s 2017 legislative session, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and freshman Representative Ron Gant (R-Rossville), sponsored a bill that allows judges to “enhance,” or increase the usual sentence for a criminal conviction when the person is also an illegal alien.
The bill was passed 28 -3 in the Senate with Democrats Thelma Harper (D-Nashville) and Reginald Tate (D-Memphis) voting in support of the measure.
On the House side, the bill passed 66 – 17 with Republican Mark White (R-Memphis) registering as “present and not voting.” Since 2015, White has sponsored multiple bills aimed at granting in-state tuition to illegal aliens.
With the passage of the Norris/Gant bill, Tennessee law now states that:
If appropriate for the offense and if not already an essential element of the offense, the court shall consider, but is not bound by, the following advisory factors in determining whether to enhance a defendant’s sentence:
(28) At the time the instant offense was committed, the defendant was illegally or unlawfully in the United States.
Sentencing enhancements are discretionary so there is no guarantee that judges in Tennessee will apply the new law.