May 4, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee today sent a letter to Governor Bill Haslam urging him to veto HB 2315, the bill that would effectively turn all local and state law enforcement officers into unpaid federal immigration agents.

“We call on Governor Haslam to veto this dangerous legislation because it raises grave constitutional concerns and would force local law enforcement to choose between their obligation to uphold the U.S. Constitution or state law,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN executive director. “We are hopeful that the governor will exercise his veto power to ensure both that we do not pass an unconstitutional law in our state and that Tennessee’s immigrant families are treated fairly.”

HB 2315 requires the warrantless detention of immigrants based on requests from federal immigration agents and prohibits local law enforcement from ensuring that there is probable cause or a judicial warrant before detaining individuals. The measure also requires all law enforcement officers to inquire about immigration and citizenship status and punishes local governments if their law enforcement agencies adopt, formally or informally, policies or practices that limit entanglement with federal immigration enforcement.

ACLU-TN’s letter explains that immigration detainers are requests from the federal government to local law enforcement officials to continue holding an individual for up to 48 hours after he or she would otherwise be released. As this constitutes a new arrest, such extended detention must be justified by probable cause. Yet HB 2315 requires local police officers to conduct such arrests even when they know that there is no probable cause and further prohibits them from asking Immigration and Customs Enforcement to demonstrate probable cause before complying with the detainer.

“Under the Fourth Amendment,” the letter states, “local police officers are ultimately responsible for the seizures they conduct. … [HB 2315] therefore puts local officers in an unconscionable bind between complying with state law and honoring their duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution.”

In the letter sent today, ACLU-TN also urges Governor Haslam to veto HB 2315 because it “strips police chiefs and sheriffs of their ability to allocate scarce resources to best respond to local needs, and will devastate the hard-won trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement that is so critical to effective policing and ensuring public safety for all Tennesseans.”

A report released yesterday shows that fear of deportation in the wake of increased ICE presence at courthouses and increased immigration arrests over the past year is stopping immigrants from reporting crimes and participating in court proceedings. Sixty-seven percent of police officers surveyed reported an impact on their ability to protect crime survivors generally and 64 percent reported an adverse impact on officer safety. Similarly, prosecutors surveyed reported that crimes including domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking were harder to investigate and prosecute because immigrant crime survivors feared immigration consequences if they came forward. 

A copy of ACLU-TN’s letter to Governor Haslam can be found at http://www.aclu-tn.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/ACLU-TN-HB2315-VetoLetter-FINAL.pdf

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