Leftist legislators and the TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) have doggedly tried to stop the anti-sanctuary city bill from moving forward in the legislative process. To date, however, amendments designed to gut or undermine the bill’s objectives have been defeated and misleading arguments offered by opponents have been rejected.
Local jurisdictions that declare themselves as “sanctuary cities” do not cooperate with federal immigration officials and instead, put protecting criminal aliens from deportation over and above the interests and welfare of citizens and legally admitted immigrants.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Mark Green and Rep. Jay Reedy has continued to add co-sponsors in the Senate along with sixty-six House members that have added their names in support.
During the last House State Government Committee, Rep. Jason Powell (D-Nashville) introduced an amendment authored by Nathan Ridley, the lawyer-lobbyist that represents TIRRC. Powell deferred to Ridley and TIRRC’s policy director Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus to explain the amendment to committee members.
After considerable debate about Powell’s amendment mostly between Ridley and Reps. Willam Lamberth (R-Cottontown) and Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport), both of whom have prior law enforcement experience, Lamberth summed it up:
[Powell’s] amendment appears to gut this bill and will provide for local governments to do an end run around this [anti-sanctuary city law]
One change proposed by Powell to Reedy’s bill would enable local governments to pass ordinances prohibiting their law enforcement officials to ask anyone about their citizenship or immigration status. This specific prohibition was included in a proposed Metro Nashville ordinance co-sponsored by Metro Councilmen Bob Mendes and Colby Sledge. The ordinance was drafted with TIRRC’s assistance.
By prohibiting Metro Nashville employees from inquiring into anyone’s immigration status it would have effectively enabled illegal aliens to access public benefits they would otherwise be barred from using.
The “don’t-ask-so-you-don’t-have-to-know-and-report” prohibition sought by Metro Nashville was also designed to obstruct local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities. This is the “end run around” effect which Lamberth identified.
If passed unamended, Reedy’s bill will close this loophole in Tennessee’s current law.
Shortly after President Trump issued his Executive Order calling for appropriate enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, including a directive to withhold non-mandatory federal funding to jurisdictions that don’t comply with deportation of illegal aliens, aka, sanctuary cities, TIRRC issued a state-wide call to organize against efforts by U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement to follow the President’s orders:
Last week the president shared his blueprints for mass deportation and made clear he needs state and local agencies to act as his deportation force. Join with TIRRC members in your local area to stop your city/county from collaborating with ICE and to create communities of trust where all residents feel safe. Sign up here: www.tnimmigrant.org/trust .
The ordinance proposing to make Nashville a sanctuary city and obstruct cooperation with federal immigration authorities was subsequently introduced.
Nashville mayoral candidate Erica Gilmore was a vocal supporter of the ordinance, declaring that as to immigration matters, “we[Metro Council] make the laws”:
I’m concerned when we have to talk about what’s American, and who’s American and how we create laws, and how we determine under those laws who can be part of the society.
We make the laws. We decide whether something is legal or not, and I think that it gets really dicey when we talk about how others are illegal and I think that other council members have articulated it well.
Having failed to stop or water down Reedy’s anti-sanctuary bill, TIRRC and Ridley point to the efficacy of Tennessee’s 2009 statute claiming there are no sanctuary cities in Tennessee despite the failed efforts of the Metro Nashville Council.
The debate emerging from Reedy’s bill shows sharp distinctions between leftist legislators who support both illegal immigration and shielding criminal aliens from deportation, from others who believe elected legislators have a duty to uphold the law.
Rep. William Lamberth touching upon both the rule of law and the moral underpinnings of Reedy’s bill, did not mince words in supporting the effort to close the loopholes in Tennessee’s anti-sanctuary city law:
… for me, just me, if someone is here illegally in this country in violation of federal law, that is an extraordinarily serious offense and it flies in the face of every single immigrant that’s come to this country legally. That they stood in line, that they’ve done it right, that they paid their dues, those are lawful immigrants that have come here…
In stark contrast, Rep. Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar), who forcefully opposed Reedy’s bill in the House State Government Committee supports illegal aliens taking jobs in Tennessee:
A lot of what we call illegal immigrants are the ones who are doing the work now because in some cases you just can’t find good labor.
State law does not permit employing illegal aliens.