Black, Beavers go against Nashville

Xavier Smith • Updated Jun 29, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Congresswoman Diane Black, R-Tenn., and state Sen. Mae Beavers, both with plans at a run for governor, added their input to the ongoing debate about the legitimacy and necessity of proposed immigration ordinances in Nashville. 

Other state and local leaders have raised concerns about the impact a Nashville Metro Council immigration bill could have on Wilson County and surrounding areas. Some leaders said the bill would effectively make Nashville a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants.

The term “sanctuary city” has no precise legal meaning, but is broadly considered to mean any city in the U.S. that adopts a policy of protecting undocumented or illegal immigrants by not prosecuting them for violating federal immigration laws.

The proposed ordinances intend to “facilitate compliance with federal immigration laws within the limited resources of local government.” The proposed ordinances also said no department, board, commission, officer or employee of the Nashville metropolitan government shall use any funds, resources or facilities of the Metro Nashville government to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws unless the assistance is required by federal or state law or a court order.

The proposed ordinances also state no resources beyond what is required by law would be used to respond to inquiries from Immigration and Customs Enforcement regarding a person’s custody status, release date or scheduled appearance date for court or probation proceedings.

The ordinances also impact law enforcement officers, as Metro employees, including officers, “shall not request information about or otherwise assist in the investigation of the citizenship or immigration status of any person, unless otherwise required by federal or state law or by court order.”

Nashville would also only honor an immigration-related detention request if it is accompanied by a warrant issued pursuant to the federal rules of criminal procedure, according to the ordinances.

Black discussed the proposed ordinances earlier this week in a statement. 

“Nashville’s own [director of law Jon Cooper] says that the Metro Council cannot legally bar Sheriff Daron Hall from cooperating with federal law officers to protect the community from dangerous criminal illegal immigrants. Nashville legislators’ attempts to aid illegal immigrants at the expense of Tennessee families is a violation of the city’s duty to follow federal law,” Black said. “As the U.S. House of Representatives votes on Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act this week, I suggest that all local governments redouble their efforts to comply with federal immigration laws and secure their communities. Too many families have already suffered at the hands of criminal illegal immigrants, many of whom have been released time and again despite committing serious crimes. Enough is enough.”

Black also submitted an amendment to the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act to broaden the types of funding restricted from sanctuary cities. The current bill blocks funding through Department of Justice grant programs. 

The Black amendment significantly increases the amount that could be withheld from a municipality obstructing federal immigration laws.

Beavers joined other Tennessee Republican lawmakers who called for the Metro Nashville Council to reject the potential bill. 

“These proposed ordinances would be a clear violation of Tennessee law, and it is our intent as legislators to protect the safety of all Tennesseans to the greatest extent. After the murder of Kate Steinle in California by an illegal immigrant who had already been convicted of seven felonies and deported five times, we should be actively encouraging our law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities involving illegal aliens who commit crimes,” the Republicans’ statement said.

Beavers joined 12 other senators in opposition to the bill, including Paul Bailey, 

Mike Bell, Ferrell Haile, Joey Hensley, Jack Johnson, Mark Green, Kerry Roberts, Janice Bowling, Jon Lundberg, Bill Ketron, Rusty Crowe and Dolores Gresham. 

Mendes, along with bill co-sponsor Colby Sledge, said they would not seek a council vote on the bill’s third reading next week as scheduled. 

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall said Cooper’s opinion supported his feelings about the bill.

“It was my concern this bill, which would have prohibited the sheriff’s office from cooperating with federal immigration authorities, was overreaching. I am pleased with this legal opinion as it validates my concerns that a local legislative body cannot limit the core duties of a state constitutional office as defined in state law. Additionally, I join Mayor Megan Barry in asking the council to reconsider passage of this legislation,” Hall said in a statement. 

Mendes discussed his intent behind the bill during last week’s council meeting.

“The goal of this bill is to have Metro comply with every last obligation we have under state and federal law, and beyond that, cities are allowed to have choice and they are allowed to exercise their choice about how much above and beyond their legal requirements they do,” Mendes said.

Mendes said he believes the bill will send a message to immigrant communities that it is safe to engage with Metropolitan government officials and personnel.

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