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Image of the raid carried out at the meat processing plant in Grainger County, Tennessee. Source: Tennessee Star.
Image of the raid carried out at the meat processing plant in Grainger County, Tennessee. Source: Tennessee Star.

Tennessee strengthens its position against sanctuary cities

On Tuesday, Republican Bill Haslam announced that he would approve a bill that would ban sanctuary cities in Tennessee, even if it doesn’t carry his signature.

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After one of the largest raids in the country's history was carried out at the state's meat processing plant—where 97 immigrants were arrested, including 86 who were undocumented—Tennessee has made clear its position in terms of immigration, this time through the approval of a new law.

As Republican Governor Bill Haslam told local media, the so-called HB 2315 law "has driving up a lot of fear on both sides," which he called "irrational."

That is why Haslam considered that the law should be approved although it will not bear his signature.

While Tennessee does not contemplate the sanctuary city model in its legislature, HB 2315 "will order local authorities to abide by federal immigration policies and cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the retention of immigrants who want to review their immigration status, without the need for a court order or probable cause that they have committed a crime," explained the EFE news agency.

Likewise, any city could lose state funding if found to have violated the law, as reported by News Channel 5.

Senator Mark Green and Rep. Diane Black, who proposed the bill, put pressure on the governor along with other state Republican lawmakers, arguing that "the legislation is necessary in order to ensure there are no sanctuary cities in Tennessee," the Tennessean explained.

Thus, the proposal was approved in April with 63 votes in favor and 23 against in the House of Representatives, and 27 in favor and 5 against in the Senate, which gave Haslam the possibility of resorting to the veto.

Activists and local organizations such as the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), the Shelby County Commission and the City Council of Nashville demanded the governor to make use of his resource, but Haslam said it was better to "abandon the discussion and move on."

For its part, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other national civil rights organizations said they would seek legal measures to counter the new law.

Stephanie Teatro, executive director of TIRRC, said: "When history looks back at the steady march of Tennessee towards becoming a hostile and dangerous place for immigrant families, at the rising tide of nativism and xenophobia, and at the immoral attacks on immigrants in this country, Governor Haslam will see himself on the wrong side."

For his part, the councilor of Nashville Fabian Bedne wrote through his Twitter account that "I’m going to start looking into what legal recourse we have as a city to stop this unfounded mandate that is unsafe, immoral and fiscally irresponsible.”

Bedne makes reference to the multiple criticisms that have arisen against the proposal for "the high cost" that it could have for local governments if they are subject to demands.

For his part, the Republican candidate for the District 6 commission in Williamson County, writer Donald Barnett, said in an opinion column that "the hysteria over 'mass deportation', ‘vigilantism’ and ‘profiling’ that will result if the sanctuary city bill sitting on Governor Haslam's desk is signed into law is pure propaganda ginned up by the professional left and their fellow travelers.”

"Sanctuary policies create a welcome sign that encourages illegal immigration and lawlessness," he continued. "According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Tom Homan, 10,000 criminal aliens released under sanctuary policies instead of turned over to ICE for deportation, have already committed crimes against innocent Americans. HB 2315 will ensure that criminal aliens are unable to live in our communities and engage in further criminal activity."

However, and according to data collected by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), there are no significant and specific figures of crimes committed by Hispanics in the state.

In addition, the Occidental Dissent platform determined white citizens are the main perpetrators of crimes in Tennessee (75.6%); therefore, the arguments of those who support the new law are not sustained by solid figures and leave HB 2315 to the free interpretation of a possible mechanism of political proselytism. 

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