NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — State and local law enforcement agencies would have to detain immigrants for deportation at the request of federal officials without requiring warrants or probable cause, under a bill passed Wednesday by Tennessee lawmakers.
The Republican-led House and Senate cleared the proposal Wednesday, leaving its fate up to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. The bill had to be resurrected earlier this week after a House panel initially voted down the measure for the year.
The legislation would ban local governments from adopting certain “sanctuary” policies, and threatens to withhold future state economic and community development money from localities that do.
Most notably, local governments would have to comply with federal immigration detainers of people identified as in the country illegally.
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The bill’s passage comes on the heels of a federal immigration raid earlier this month that took 97 people into custody at an eastern Tennessee meat processing plant. On Wednesday, Republicans batted down Democratic amendments to the bill that would have penalized companies that hire 50 or more immigrants living in the country illegally, saying that should be done in a separate bill.
The bill has drawn harsh criticism from the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, which called it “one of the most extreme, anti-immigrant proposals currently pending in the country.”
Under the proposal, Republican sponsor Rep. Jay Reedy of Erin said Tennessee law enforcement would only act when directed by federal authorities. A fellow sponsor, Republican Sen. Mark Green, said someone would first have to be stopped by law enforcement for the possible commission of a crime. Green contended that any accusation that the legislation is racially motivated is false.
Proponents of the bill also brushed off worries that it could be struck down as unconstitutional.
“This bill does nothing to harm any person who’s come to the United States or Tennessee legally,” said Green, a Clarksville lawmaker.
Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Jeff Yarbro said there aren’t any sanctuary cities in Tennessee, and called the bill a “solution in search of a problem.” Nashville proposed sanctuary city-like immigrant protections last year, but dropped the push.
“It really does more tough talking at the expense of abiding by the Constitution, at the expense of fiscal responsibility, and finally, it does so at the expense of public safety,” the Nashville lawmaker said.
The proposal would take effect in January 2019.