Haslam faces pressure on sanctuary cities bill

Xavier Smith • May 17, 2018 at 7:32 PM

Gov. Bill Haslam has faced increased pressure from supporters and opponents of a sanctuary cities bill as a decision looms for the governor.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, and Rep. Jay Reedy, would prohibit state and local governments from adopting or enacting sanctuary policies and prohibits any local governments that enact sanctuary cities from receiving any state funding. Additionally, the bill allows Tennesseans to submit complaints to the Tennessee Attorney General and authorizes law enforcement to cooperate with federal officials to enforce immigration laws.

“Sanctuary cities are illegal and dangerous, and it’s time for us to take action to protect our citizens who honor the laws of our great state and nation. By adding teeth to our existing immigration laws, hopefully our state can prevent tragedies like what happened to Kate Steinle in San Francisco,” Green said earlier this year.

Haslam has until Tuesday to veto, sign or take no action on the bill, which would allow it to become law without his signature. He has not indicated which action he could take, although he said he believes there are misconceptions about the bill from both sides of the issue.

Dozens of opponents of the measure marched through Nashville to the Tennessee Legislative Plaza on Wednesday to urge Haslam to veto the bill. A similar march and protest took place last month.

Leaders from several organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, signed a joint letter urging Haslam to veto the bill.

“Signing HB 2315 would make Tennessee a dangerous place for immigrant families and cement the state's reputation as hostile and unwelcoming to newcomers. Among other aspects, HB 2315 would bar all law enforcement agencies, even campus police, from adopting commonsense policies that limit officer inquiry about immigration and citizenship status, including in routine interactions with victims and witnesses to crime,” the letter read. “HB 2315 will increase the already heightened fear that immigrants and their family members experience and make students and others less likely to report crimes.”

Marielena Hincapie, National Immigration Law Center executive director, also issued a statement on the bill.

“HB 2315 would formalize [Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s] abuse of power and make Tennessee a hostile and dangerous place for immigrant families,” Hincapie said. “We stand with immigrant communities in Tennessee in urging Gov. Haslam to listen to the outcry from Tennesseans across the state and to heed the warnings of civil rights groups around the country: HB 2315 is a gross overreach of federal power and harms immigrant families, public safety, local taxpayers, and Tennessee’s reputation.”

Supporters of the bill include gubernatorial candidates Randy Boyd and Diane Black.

“From sanctuary cities to consular IDs, these bills prohibit liberal local governments from stepping around state laws to reward illegal immigration. I urge our state legislators to support both of these bills,” Black said.

Boyd said he would make sure there are no sanctuary cities in the state if he were elected governor.

Many major cities have been designated sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants, including Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle, San Francisco and more.

Nashville, although some city leaders have voiced support for undocumented immigrants, does not qualify as a sanctuary city because of steps taken by the city against illegal immigrants. Nashville offers a 48-hour detainment for illegal immigrants if requested by immigration agents and submits a suspect’s fingerprint information to the FBI.

In 2009, the Tennessee state legislature passed a bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Carr and Sen. Jim Tracy, that would prohibit local municipalities from enacting sanctuary city policies that make it hard for government employees to comply with federal immigration law. 

The Mt. Juliet City Commission unanimously passed a resolution in 2016, sponsored by Vice Mayor James Maness, which proclaimed Mt. Juliet as a “rule of law” city.

Mt. Juliet mayor Ed Hagerty said the proclamation had “no teeth” and was meant to send a message the city would not tolerate immigrants who were in Mt. Juliet illegally. Hagerty admitted the proclamation was more to set tone than set a law that could be enforceable in some way.


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