Brian Wilson and Chas Sisk
Wed, Feb 1, 2012 at 7:18pm
A state House bill that would allow law enforcement to check someone’s immigration status if pulled over or detained has been put on hold for the moment.
The bill, called the Lawful Immigration Enforcement Act, was put behind the budget by a House finance subcommittee Wednesday morning. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, acknowledged that the move, made until sufficient funds can be generated to finance it, slows the bill’s progress.
“Putting it behind the budget doesn’t kill it,” he said. “It basically parks it.”
The proposed bill would allow law enforcement to check someone’s immigration status if an officer reasonably suspected a person already stopped or detained wasn’t a citizen or legal immigrant. The bill also would create a training program for law enforcement about immigration laws.
“We are prioritizing the state’s stance on illegal immigration based on the financial resources we have,” Carr said.
Eben Cathey, communications coordinator for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, is pleased by the bill’s delay — although he would have rather seen the subcommittee defeat the “discriminatory legislation” outright.
“This Arizona copycat bill doesn’t reflect the values and priorities of Tennessee voters,” he said. “It takes some of the worst aspects of these bills and tries to implement them in Tennessee.”
The bill’s move does not signal a change on Carr’s stance on illegal immigration. Carr also believes the bill’s limited reach compared to immigration laws passed in Alabama and Arizona makes it more feasible.
“Backing off, no. Prioritizing, yes,” he said. “We’ve got a very targeted approach to tackle illegal immigration here in the state.”
Carr believes the bill only extends the reach of current laws.
“All (it) really does is extend it to the patrol officers on the beat,” he said. “It allows law enforcement to do what jailers are already required to do.”
A similar state Senate bill has not been discussed since last year.
Harboring bill advances
Separately, the House Judiciary subcommittee advanced a measure that would make it illegal to transport or harbor “illegal aliens,” even though its sponsor offered to withdraw the measure.
The measure, House Bill 2191, has drawn fire from some nonprofits and churches, which say it could open them to prosecution if they take in homeless immigrants or transport them to functions.
But its sponsor, Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, said his intention was only to punish human trafficking by criminal groups engaged in the drug trade, prostitution and slavery.
Shipley told the subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Jim Coley, R-Bartlett, that he was willing to withdraw it because it was redundant with other anti-human trafficking measures. But Coley asked the subcommittee to advance it to the full committee nonetheless so it could be discussed further.