PRESS STATEMENTWednesday, April 25, 2018Contact: Jacob | firstname.lastname@example.org
Tennessee Legislature Passes Extreme Bill to Turn Local Law Enforcement into Deportation ForceIn wake of massive ICE raid, Tennessee moves to make mass deportation official state policyNASHVILLE, TN - After intense debate, both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly passed HB 2315, one of the country’s most extreme and anti-immigrant bills to ban so-called “sanctuary cities.” The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition is urging Governor Haslam to veto the bill.
“We are urging the Governor to veto the Mass Deportation bill that would make Tennessee a dangerous place for immigrant families and cement our state's reputation as hostile and unwelcoming,” said Stephanie Teatro, Co-Executive Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC).
Existing state and federal laws already require all local governments and law enforcement agencies to comply with federal immigration law, but HB 2315 is a sweeping and extreme measure to coerce localities to go above and beyond the law, turning every request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain someone into an unconditional directive, and prohibiting localities from ensuring there is probable cause or a judicial warrant before denying a person their freedom. The bill would also require all law enforcement officers, even campus police, to inquire about immigration and citizenship status in even the most routine interactions.
“HB2315 sets a dangerous precedent by severely restricting the ability of local police to make common-sense, public safety decisions, and forcing local governments to bear the risk and expense of federal immigration enforcement,” said Teatro.
Over the course of many weeks of committee debate, members of the General Assembly heard concerns from local law enforcement, city and county officials, and others. The sponsors were unable to answer basic questions about the legal, practical, and financial implications of the bill or address the concerns about its broad impact and likely unintended consequences.
“During committee debates, the Senate sponsor invited the anti-immigrant hate group FAIR to testify, while the House sponsor used an ethnic slur when presenting the bill,” Teatro continued. “We’re alarmed and disappointed that legislators sided with the interests of the most extreme fringe of the electorate, rather than heed the warnings from law enforcement and local governments.”
The passage of the bill comes on the heels of a massive ICE raid in Bean Station, Tennessee, where nearly one hundred people in a meatpacking plant were arrested and detained in the largest worksite raid in a decade. Workers at the plant reported rough treatment and detention despite having work authorization, a clear violation of the law and basic, constitutional rights.
“Despite escalating and egregious behavior by ICE, the Tennessee legislature just took away any safeguards against federal overreach and abuse by turning every detention request from ICE into an unconditional, legal directive to every police officer in the state,” Teatro said.
After ICE antagonized the immigrant community in East Tennessee with the massive workplace raid, local faith leaders, teachers, farmers, and neighbors reacted with outrage and support for immigrant families. The devastating impact of the raid on 97 Tennessee families has prompted many conservative voters to rethink their views on immigration policy. Similarly, HB 2315 and its likely, unintended consequences do not reflect the values and sentiments of Tennessee voters. In fact, a recent NBC poll found that six out of ten Tennesseans favor legalization over deportation for undocumented immigrants.
“On the heels of the massive ICE raid that devastated East Tennessee communities, the state legislature is seeking to make mass deportation our official state policy. But as we’ve seen from the Morristown community and in recent polls, mass deportations run counter to Tennessee values,” Teatro added. “The bill comes at a high-cost to immigrant families, public safety, local taxpayers, and our state’s reputation, only to help a handful of legislators score political points. We urge the Governor to swiftly veto this bill.”
TIRRC is a statewide, immigrant and refugee-led collaboration whose mission is to empower immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee to develop a unified voice, defend their rights, and create an atmosphere in which they are recognized as positive contributors to the state. Since its founding in 2001, TIRRC has worked to develop immigrant leadership, build the capacity of its immigrant-led member organizations, help immigrant community members understand and engage in the civic process, and educate the public about policies that would better promote integration of new immigrants and facilitate their full participation in US society. In just a few years TIRRC has grown from a grassroots network of community leaders into one of the most diverse and effective coalitions of its kind, a model for emerging immigrant rights organizations in the Southeast and throughout the United States.