Nashville Community Defense/Defensa Comunitaria Nashville uses the tagline “here to stay.” The group is led by Cathy Carrillo who organizes and leads protests against deporting criminal illegal aliens while Metro’s lawyers in the Public Defender’s office provide legal services for “non-citizen defendants.”
According to Elizabeth Lopez, a graduate of Vanderbilt University and a spokesman for Nashville-based Workers Dignity which is funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Workers Dignity helped spin-off Carillo’s group.
Last year Lopez and Carrillo spoke as representatives of Workers Dignity at the TN Alliance for Progress conference on a panel titled “Resisting Deportation: Immigration Policy and Organizing.”
Workers Dignity organized in 2010, to advocate for the workplace rights of legal immigrants and illegal aliens. Protesting “wage theft” from low wage immigrant hotel cleaners, the group has expanded the campaign to include construction workers and are bootstrapping their menu of demands to the explosive growth currently being experienced in Nashville.
Listed among the TN Immigrant & Refugee Right’s (TIRRC) coalition members, Workers Dignity hired a full-time organizer to head up a Neighborhood Defense Committee, the project launched by the TIRRC to shield criminal and non-criminal illegal aliens and obstruct enforcement of immigration law by U.S. authorities.
A 2017 meeting notice for Carrillo’s Nashville Community Defense group explained their purpose and objectives:
Nashville Community Defense is a coalition that has come together in the wake of attacks on immigrant communities and Muslim communities nationwide. We stand with immigrant community members and Muslim community members who have been singled out for threats and harassment by Trump’s executive orders. Our Rapid Response team will take action before, during, and after raids. We are not alone. Nashville Community Defense is part of a nationwide support network for detainees and their families.
Carrillo and her supporters have held multiple protests demanding that Sheriff Daron Hall stop holding illegal aliens who are arrested locally for committing crimes and are wanted by ICE. According to a News Channel 5 report about Carrillo’s December 2017 protest, the group claims that “400 immigrants have been arrested this year in Nashville, and according to them, many have been unfairly targeted.”
The group has also called on the Sheriff and Nashville Mayor Briley to terminate the city’s contract with Nashville-based CoreCivic, the company that operates the Metro-Davidson County jail.
CoreCivic also operates ICE detention centers and provides detention services through contracts with the U.S. Marshalls Service.
Carrillo is also a volunteer coordinator for the Tennessee chapter of the Women’s March called Power Together TN whose sponsors include Emerge Tennessee, a campaign-training program for Democrat women, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, Indivisible Tennessee, Husk Restaurant, and Jackalope Brewing Company.
Power Together TN has joined the calls to abolish ICE and end Nashville’s contract with CoreCivic.
In 2017, Metro councilmen Bob Mendes and Colby Sledge, introduced two ordinances that would have made Nashville the most liberal sanctuary city in the U.S. TIRRC, whose co-director is married to Sledge, helped draft the ordinances.
One of the bills sought to terminate the contract with the U.S. Marshals Service which uses the Davidson County jail to detain illegal criminal aliens for ICE pick-up. At the time, Nashville Sheriff Hall was quoted as saying that “he would not honor the [Mendes/Sledge] ordinance because it’s a public safety issue,” NewsChannel 5 reported:
‘To ask me to ignore everything with immigration is to let that person go who is a serious criminal local violator or federal immigration violator,’ Hall said.
Hall also said he didn’t believe the council had the authority to tell him how to do his job, and the city attorney agreed.
Tennessee’s new anti-sanctuary city law that goes into effect at the beginning of 2019, requires compliance with ICE detainer requests or put the local jurisdiction at risk of jeopardizing certain state funds for violating the law.
More recently, a Tennessee Tribune story suggests that Sheriff Hall will comply with ICE detainer requests. The “Secure Communities” protocols referred to by Sheriff Hall in the story means that it is within ICE’s discretion to prioritize which groups of illegal aliens will be detained by local authorities:
ICE prioritizes the removal of public safety and national security threats, those who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who have failed to comply with a final order of removal, and those who have engaged in fraud/willful misrepresentation in connection with official government matters.
In the meantime, illegal aliens who are arrested and charged locally with having committed a criminal offense can receive publicly paid-for legal representation through the Metro Nashville Public Defenders Office (NPD).
Lawyers in the self-named “Nashville Defenders” office are Metro Nashville employees who provide legal representation to indigent criminals. Mary-Kathryn Harcombe, a lawyer in the NPD is the immigration specialist identified on the office’s New Americans Project website page. This initiative provides information and resources to “help non-citizen defendants and their attorneys as they navigate criminal proceedings and find solutions that minimize immigration consequences.”
The Nashville Defenders website also hosts a page titled “Information for Non-Citizen Defendants.” Included on this page are links to resources from the TIRRC and the Immigrant Defense Project’s “Know Your Rights With ICE.”
The Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) is based in New York and receives funding from George Soros Open Society Foundations.
The IDP mission states:
The Immigrant Defense Project works to secure fairness and justice for immigrants in the United States.
We aim to abolish a racially biased criminal legal system that violates basic human rights and an immigration system that every year tears hundreds of thousands of immigrants with convictions from their homes, their families, and their communities.
We fight to end the current era of unprecedented mass deportation via interconnected strategies that attack the two systems at multiple points — strengthening immigrant defense through training and expert advice; challenging unfair laws through impact litigation; shaping just policies through advocacy; and empowering communities and advocates through alliance building and education, and changing negative perceptions about immigrants through communications and messaging.
We help lay the groundwork for a day when the criminal and immigration laws of the United States respect and uphold the human rights of everyone.
Other IDP resources provided through the Nashville Defenders website include the “Immigration Status Guide.”
The Tennessee Tribune article identifies Cathy Carrillo as a “dreamer,” suggesting that she does not have any lawful immigration status or lawful presence in Tennessee. The story retells her story about her father being deported in 2009 under Nashville’s 287(g) program for “a broken tailight” even though according to Carrillo, [h]e had a valid license, registration, and insurance.”
According to Sheriff Hall’s two-year review of the 287(g) program, “5,000 criminal aliens have been processed for removal. More importantly, over the past two years, the percentage of people arrested in Nashville who are here illegally has decreased by 36 percent, we have seen a 3o percent decrease the overall percentage of foreign-born arrested, and more than 100 gang members have been removed from our community.”
Despite the program’s success, Sheriff Hall discontinued participation in 2012.
The Middle Tennessee Democratic Socialists of America and the Chattanooga chapter of the Democratic Socialist of America held “free brake light repair” clinics to help illegal aliens avoid traffic stops that can lead to deportation.