FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 16, 2019CONTACTS: Hamp Price, Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, firstname.lastname@example.org, 256-749-6420Marion Steinfels, Southern Poverty Law Center, email@example.com, 202-557-0430
TIRRC & SPLC File for Internal Documents Related to Weekend Arrests Organizations seek answers from local sheriff about weekend ICE arrests
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) have filed a request for information and communications relating to the involvement of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) involvement in the arrests of a number of individuals by federal immigration officials last week.
Last Friday, the sheriff’s office assisted Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in the arrest of at least six Latinx residents in Jackson.
Initial reports indicate that those arrested were drivers and passengers from four different vehicles that were stopped under the pretense of minor traffic violations. The sheriff’s officers did not charge the drivers with any crime or bring them into local custody, but instead called ICE agents to the scene.
It appears that ICE agents were essentially on call and ready to pick up individuals who were stopped by sheriff’s deputies. The SPLC and TIRRC have filed public records requests under the Tennessee Open Records Act to uncover the nature and extent of the collaboration.
The operation in Jackson took place as immigrants braced for massive enforcement operations threatened by President Trump in cities across the United States and scheduled to begin Sunday morning. No cities in Tennessee were on the list of cities reported to be targeted.
“The U.S. Constitution provides everyone equal protections under the law, the right against unreasonable search and seizures, and due process,” said Meredith Stewart, senior supervising attorney with SPLC. “These arrests are a direct result of an emboldened ICE and local law enforcement who saw the president’s threats as an opportunity to harass immigrant communities. The information we are seeking will provide vital information to determine the legality of the operation and help get a better understanding of why and how these random arrests happened.”
While elected officials and law enforcement in other parts of the country worked to protect their residents from devastating ICE raids threatened over the weekend, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office appears to have been an eager participant.
“The decision by local authorities to help ICE carry out these arrests during this weekend of heightened fears was irresponsible and reckless. These arrests will further erode trust in local institutions and have lasting damage on the health and safety of the entire community,” said Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of TIRRC. “The combined actions of our local and federal governments to separate families and terrorize communities are an affront to our values. The community deserves answers about why and how their local Sheriff’s Office stopped unsuspecting Latinx residents, including those who were driving home to their family after a hard day’s work, only to turn them over to ICE.”
The investigations into the conduct of these arrests have been supported by local attorneys Casey Bryant of the organization Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Andrew Free.
If anyone has information about any of the arrests in Jackson, Tenn., please call 615-414-1030.
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. For more information visit www.tnimmigrant.org.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, visit www.splcenter.org.