As you well know, the lives of immigrants have been dramatically transformed since the election. The president and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have made clear that every undocumented person is a priority for deportation, and that local government institutions will be used to carry out mass deportations. As a result, immigrants in Nashville have been fearful of sending their kids to schools, of accessing critical services, and of engaging with public agencies. We need to update our policies to build trust in Nashville and to keep families together.
In response, TIRRC launched our Nashville Together campaign by filling two bills with Metro Council to draw a bright light between the work of city agencies and that of federal immigration enforcement, building trust and cooperation in the city and helping to keep Nashville families together. To learn more, read our policy brief here.
Nashville prides itself on being a warm and welcoming city for all people, no matter where you are from or how you got here. But in the face of mass deportations, many Nashvillians feel unsafe and isolated in our city. We need new policies to build trust in Nashville and to keep families together.
On Friday, May 26th, two ordinances were filed to draw a bright line between the work of city agencies and that of federal immigration enforcement, building trust and cooperation in the city and helping to keep Nashville families together. The Nashville Together campaign will organize immigrants, refugees, and their neighbors in support of this legislation.
Read our statement on the ordinances' filing and the coverage in the Tennessean.
Why Nashville Together?
Immigrants are deeply rooted in our community.
They are our mothers and fathers, siblings and children neighbors, coworkers, friends and loved ones. They contribute to our economy and strengthen our community.
Nashville is a warm and welcoming city.
Nashville has a proud history of welcoming immigrants and refugees and has long recognized the benefits of making it easier for all residents to participate, contribute, and access key services and opportunities, as seen through the rejection of the English Only referendum and the development of innovative programs from the Mayor’s Office of New Americans like MyCity Academy.
New immigration policies put tens of thousands of Nashville families at risk.
Over the past few months our immigration system, especially immigration enforcement, has been dramatically transformed. The president and ICE have made clear that everyone undocumented person is a priority for deportation and that local government institutions will be used to carry out mass deportations.
Deportations separate families and devastate communities.
Deportations mean Nashville children losing their parents, a family losing an income earner, or a business shutting down or losing an employee. Our whole community suffers from mass deportations. Immigration arrests have increased 38% in the first three months of the Trump administration compared with the same period last year. More than half of those arrested have no criminal record.
Cities work best when everyone participates.
Right now, immigrants in Nashville are fearful of sending their kids to school, of accessing critical service, and calling the police. The cooperation of immigrant residents and trust between communities and public agencies is critical to fulfilling the mission and duties of the city. We need clear policies to reassure families that local government agencies are not immigration enforcement.
How ICE Can Use Local Governments to Carry Out Mass Deportations
Existing state and federal laws require all local governments and law enforcement agencies to comply with federal immigration law, but the way that ICE carries out mass deportations in local communities is aided by voluntary and largely unfunded collaboration. Here’s how:
ICE asks the Nashville Sheriff's Office to detain immigrants so they can be picked up and deported.
When an immigrant eligible for release from the Davidson County jail (after serving their time, having their charges dropped, or paying their bond), ICE can send a “detainer” request for the sheriff’s office to hold that person so they can be picked up and deported. This detainer is not a criminal warrant, it is simply a voluntary request issued by an ICE officer that jails can choose whether or not to honor.
The Problem With ICE 'Detainers'
- Creates a deportation dragnet in our jails. From fiscal years 2003-2015 there were 6,885 detainer requests sent to the Davidson County jail. Of those, 38% were for individuals with no criminal conviction, and 43% were for those convicted of a level 3 offense, which are generally misdemeanors, the least serious of criminal offenses. 17% of all detainers were issued for individuals convicted of driving without a license.
- Waste of taxpayer resources. The federal government does not reimburse or indemnify localities for the significant costs associated with complying with ICE holds, which include detention prolonged for days or weeks and the growing risk of legal liability.
- Constitutional issues. Unlike criminal detainers or warrants, there is no established standard of proof for issuing an ICE hold. Any immigration authority can issue an ICE hold, and the decision to issue a hold may be based on minimal information and faulty databases, which have led to ICE holds being placed on U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents not subject to deportation. Court rulings have established honoring detainers amount to fourth amendment violations and legal liability for the county.
- Undermines trust in local law enforcement. The practice of using our jails and criminal justice system to transfer immigrants to ICE has eroded trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities, who fear that any contact with the police—including reporting a crime or a routine traffic stop—could lead to deportation.
ICE uses local government agencies to set up traps for local immigrants.
ICE tries to get access to information that is not publicly available and use local government agencies to make their jobs easier.
For example, ICE has been using information from local courts to apprehend individuals—even victims of domestic violence appearing in court to request an order of protection. In Georgia, ICE has requested access to court dockets a week early so that they can identify potential targets. ICE has also acquired information about who is currently on state and local probation in Davidson County, and may try to request information about when someone is scheduled to appear for their probation appointment.
In addition to asking jails to detain people, ICE may also ask jails to notify them of someone’s release date and time so that they can apprehend the individual as they're being released.
The problem? Immigrants will not feel safe reporting for probation or showing up to court to pay a fine or testify if they fear ICE will be there waiting.
Nashville Together Ordinances
Ordinance 1: Keeping City Agencies Out of Deportations
This ordinance ensures the city's limited resources are allocated to local priorities, not carrying out the duties of the federal government. The Trump administration's blurring of the lines between city services and federal immigration enforcement has had a chilling effect on immigrant families accessing critical services and participating in the city. Recognizing that the cooperation of immigrant communities and public agencies is critical to fulfilling the mission of the city, the ordinance seeks to clarify the roles and responsibilities of our local government and to reassure residents by:
- Prohibiting the use of any employees, resources, funds, or facilities in the enforcement of federal immigration law. The ordinance expressly prohibits employees from sharing information regarding an individual's custody status, release date or court/probation appearance schedule, which is information ICE is currently using to encroached on city agencies to carry out federal enforcement.
- Prohibiting inquiries about immigration status that are not required by state or federal law.
- Prohibiting detaining immigrants in Nashville's jails for ICE without a warrant signed by a judge.
Ordinance 2: No ICE Detention Centers in Nashville Jail
This ordinance could bring an end to the use of the Davidson County jail as an immigrant detention center. Specifically, the ordinance terminates a 1996 contract that ICE and the Sheriff have been relying on to detain immigrants from inside and outside the county in the Davidson County jail for civil immigration charges. Metro contracts are not to have terms exceeding five years, but this contract has been in place for more than 20. The contract, which applies to housing all federal inmates, not just those detained by ICE, would be renegotiated. We would advocate that the new contract exclude contracts with ICE would would prohibit the jail from serving as an immigrant detention center.
Read the full ordinance here.
Are you a faith leader?
The collective wisdom of our religious traditions issues a clarion call for hospitality. Yet in the first 100 days of the new presidential administration, the number of deportations of immigrants has increased by nearly 40% as compared to the same period in the previous year. With increasing reliance on local government agencies to carry out mass deportations, there is growing distrust around the government agencies that are supposed to protect all community members. This is exacerbated by cases of ICE detaining a domestic violence victim seeking an order of protection in a Texas courthouse and arresting a California father outside of his daughter's public school. Here in Nashville, a traffic stop by MNPD can lead to deportation.
This summer, Davidson County Metro Council has the opportunity to protect our neighbors by drawing a bright line between local government agencies and federal immigration enforcement. Together, by drawing on our values and resources of our faith traditions, we can keep our city out of the unjust detention and deportation of immigrants that separate families and devastate communities across Middle Tennessee.
Sign here if you are a faith leader who believes Nashville city agencies should stay out of federal immigration enforcement.
Nashville Together Campaign in the Media
- Controversial Immigration Measures Move Forward in Nashville's Metro Council | The Tennesseean, June 20, 2017
- Nashville Must Put the Feds in Check on Immigration | The Tennessean, June 19, 2017
- Proposed Ordinance Would Limit Cooperation Between Local Law Enforcement, ICE | WKRN, June 19, 2017
- Nashville Immigrants Weigh Skipping Court Dates After ICE Arrest at Courthouse | The Tennessean, June 16, 2017
- Judge: Immigration Agent Nearly Arrested Wrong Man at Nashville Courthouse | The Tennessean, June 15, 2017
- Immigration Arrest at Nashville Courthouse Latest in National Trend | The Tennessean, June 8, 2017
- Nashville Council Members, Advocates Voice Support for 'Sanctuary City'-like Policies | The Tennessean, May 31, 2017
- Nashville Immigrants Live in Fear, Make Plans for Deportation | The Tennessean, May 30, 2017
- Nashville to Consider 'Sanctuary City-type Policies as Immigration Debate Rages | The Tennessean, May 26, 2017
TIRRC is honored and proud to stand together with the following organizations who have publicly endorsed the Nashville Together campaign, and support the passage of BL-739 and BL-743 to limit Nashville's cooperation with ICE.
- Metro Human Relations Commission
- Metro Nashville Board of Public Education
- Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee
- Sexual Assault Center
- Showing Up for Racial Justice Nashville
- Somali Community of Middle Tennessee
- Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood
- Tennessee Justice Center
- Workers' Dignity