ACLU Of Tennessee Calls on Governor Bredesen to Veto Arizona-like Racial Profiling Legislation

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
June 21, 2010 12:00 am

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NASHVILLE, TN – In the wake of recent legislation signaling an increasingly hostile environment for Tennessee’s immigrants, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) sent a letter to Governor Bredesen urging him to veto SB 1141/HB 670. This legislation effectively requires individuals to carry immigration documentation at all times so that they can prove they are in the country legally in case they are arrested. Sheriffs are required to send booking information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for all people who cannot prove their legal status.

“SB 1141/HB 670 challenges the values of fairness and equality, invites disparate treatment of minority groups, and encourages racial profiling,” ACLU-TN Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said in her letter to Governor Bredesen. “This legislation is un-American and effectively creates a police state.”

The legislation also requires sheriffs’ offices to take on complex, traditionally federal immigration duties without funding, access to federal databases or training, potentially inviting racial profiling and misuse. According to ACLU-TN’s letter, “Using local law enforcement who are untrained in the complexities and proper enforcement of federal immigration law [to enforce these laws] is a recipe for racial profiling.”

“Under SB 1141/HB 670, once the individual is arrested, it becomes the responsibility of the jailer to attempt to determine that person’s immigration status. It is likely that absent documentation of lawful presence, the jailer will rely on the arrested person’s appearance, race, ethnicity, accent and language to attempt to determine the individual’s legal status and determine whether or not to report the person to ICE,” the letter continues.

In addition, in counties where sheriffs have responsibility for patrolling the streets as well as operating the jails, the legislation diverts limited resources from regular policing of communities to target people who are not a threat to public safety. ACLU-TN is concerned that local law enforcement might be more likely to arrest an individual for a minor infraction, rather than to issue a citation, in order to trigger an immigration investigation. This despite the fact that data from the U.S. Census and other sources shows that across all ethnic groups, incarceration rates for young men are lowest among immigrants, regardless of education level, and that as the size of the undocumented population has increased in the United States, the violent crime rate has decreased.

In communities already fearful and distrustful of law enforcement, ACLU-TN is also concerned that the legislation will make witnesses and victims of crime reluctant to come forward and work with police for fear of being arrested and facing possible detention and deportation.

ACLU-TN is calling for Governor Bredesen to veto SB 1141/HB 670 “on behalf of Tennesseans committed to moving Tennessee forward and retaining its standards of fairness and due process.”

A copy of ACLU-TN’s letter to Governor Bredesen can be found here:

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