Decision Exposes TN to Racial Profiling of Lawful Residents, Sheriffs Forced To Become Immigration Experts
More Info: SB 1141 Fact Sheet: Arizona-like Policy, Bad for TN (Updated Regularly)
Contact: Elias Feghali, 615-784-9745 (cell), email@example.com
Nashville, TN – On Monday afternoon, Governor Phil Bredesen signed SB 1141/HB 670into law. His decision comes despite a broad-based community campaign in oppositionand countless letters from community leaders throughout Tennessee, including the ACLU, Tennessee Senator Tim Barnes, the Bishop Diocese of Knoxville, and the Tennessee NAACP.
“We are disappointed that Governor Bredesen declined to show leadership on this incredibly important issue,” says Stephen Fotopulos, Executive Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC). “More importantly, we are now left with a terrible piece of legislation that burdens local governments and fails to make our communities safer. There are smart, effective ways to enforce our nation’s immigration policies, and this new TN law includes none of them.”
“We all want solutions to our broken immigration system, but this law 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 federal immigration rules. Without training or access to federal databases, jailers will be forced to profile everyone who looks or sounds foreign-bornand possibly flood immigration authorities with useless records. By passing this legislation, our state government has sent a clear message that it's okay for untrained law enforcement officers to treat any foreign national or non-white resident with heightened suspicion. The new law doesn’t go into effect until January of 2011, and jailers have a great deal of work ahead of them to prepare for this unfunded mandate."
As passed, SB 1141/ HB 670 requires 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.
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.” (NAACP of Tennessee)
“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.” (ACLU of Tennessee)
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." (Knoxville News Sentinel)
“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." (Tennessean)