June 23, 2010: NAACP, TIRRC, ACLU and Interfaith Leaders Host Community Vigil in Opposition to SB 1141/HB 670
For Immediate Release
June 23rd, 2010
Elias Feghali, 615-784-9745 (cell), email@example.com
Diverse Coalition Calls Bill Dangerous Unfunded Mandate, Recipe for Racial Profiling of Lawful Residents
Thursday, June 24th at 7:00pm on the steps of the TN State Capitol (600 Charlotte Ave, Nashville, TN)
Nashville, TN – On Thursday evening, behind a back drop of concerned Tennesseans holding lit candles on the steps of the State Capitol, a coalition of diverse community leaders will come together to urge Governor Bredesen to veto SB 1141 / HB 670. A number of interfaith leaders and speakers will address the gathering about the dangers of racial profiling for all Tennessee residents. Lawyers and affected community members will share testimonials of how racial profiling has ensnared lawfully present Tennesseans in our badly broken federal immigration system – and how SB 1141 / HB 670 only promises more of the same.
“The momentum is building throughout the state to what we hope will be a veto by the Governor,” says Stephen Fotopulos, Executive Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC). “Gov. Bredesen has demonstrated his leadership in the past on complex issues; and, we expect that when he sits down and considers how dangerous it is to mandate that Tennessee jailers understand the ins and outs of federal immigration policy, he will do what’s best for the safety of all Tennesseans.”
Since Monday, a number of prominent leaders and organizations have sent letters to the Governor, including the ACLU of Tennesseee, TIRRC, the NAACP of Tennessee, the NAACP of Clarksville, Congregation Micah, and the Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship. Two of the largest newspapers in state (Tennessean, Knoxville News Sentinel) have likewise penned editorials opposing the bill and urging Gov. Bredesen to exercise his veto authority.
If passed, SB 1141/ HB 670 will mandate that every jailer in the state inspect the immigration documents of every person detained, with no specialized training, funding, oversight, or access to federal immigration databases. Beyond asking questions about citizenship, SB1141 requires jailers to determine whether someone is in compliance with complex, federal immigration laws. For example, jailers would be required to inspect a detainee's papers to determine if a tourist or student visa is current or whether a petition for political asylum has been approved.
“We all want solutions to our broken immigration system, but this bill only makes the problem worse by creating an impossible situation for our sheriffs,” says Fotopulos. “There are quite literally hundreds of conditions they will have to check to verify compliance with immigration laws. Without training or access to federal databases, jailers will be forced to profile everyone who looks or sounds foreign-born. By passing this bill, our legislature is sending a clear message that it's okay for untrained law enforcement officers to treat foreign nationals and non-white residents with heightened suspicion."
Quotes from Letters to the Governor:
“Governor Bredesen, it was just 2008, when we passed into law the TN Racial Profiling Prevention Act, that prohibits ‘the detention, interdiction or other disparate treatment of an individual solely on the basis of their actual or perceived race, color, ethnicity, national organ or religion.’….
"This is a dangerous time in history for communities of color. Arizona’s recent anti-immigrant legislation has created a national climate that further criminalizes hardworking members of communities of color and sanctions the unequal treatment of anyone who looks or sounds foreign-born. Under this legislation, local law enforcement might be more likely to arrest an individual for a minor infraction rather than to issue a citation in order to trigger an immigration investigation. A law that encourages arrest in order to check people’s immigration status creates the potential for racial bias in the application of Tennessee’s citation v. arrest statue.”
“SB 1141/HB 670 is disturbingly similar to elements of Arizona’s racial profiling law in that it would require individuals in Tennessee to effectively ‘carry their papers’ at all times so that they can prove their legal immigration status. As you know, ACLU and groups have filed a lawsuit challenging the Arizona law and the Department of Justice is also considering a lawsuit. Please do not let Tennessee follow Arizona’s shameful lead.”
Quotes from Newspaper Editorials/Articles:
"A provision of the bill passed by the Legislature, however, calls for the sharing of information 'if the keeper of the jail determines that the individual is in violation of the Immigration and Naturalization Act … or if such status cannot be determined.' In other words, it would be up to the jailer to decide whether to turn over information. Racial and ethnic profiling—intentional or not—would be a constant risk."
“Gov. Phil Bredesen has shown good judgment in his more than seven years as governor when it comes to vetoing legislation that he thought wasn’t good for the citizens of Tennessee.
"Even though the legislature over rode it, the governor used that good judgment just last month, when he vetoed a bill to allow handgun-permit holders to bring weapons into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. He called the guns-in-bars bill ‘expansive and dangerous’ and, indeed, it was a bad bill for the citizenry of this great state of ours.
"The governor has a chance to veto another piece of bad legislation: SB 1141/HB 670."
SB 1141/HB 670 Fact Sheet (updated regularly)
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