Constitutional Law Experts, Violence Survivors' Advocates, Criminal Defense Attorneys Urge Governor to Veto Mass Deportation Bill

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
May 15, 2018 1:00 pm

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Today experts from across Tennessee in three fields — constitutional and immigration law, criminal defense, and domestic and sexual violence advocacy — each sent Governor Haslam a letter urging him to veto HB 2315.

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.

Constitutional and Immigration Law Experts Flag Numerous Constitutional Violations in HB 2315

The letter sent by current and emeritus professors of constitutional and immigration law details the “multiple, serious constitutional concerns” raised by the bill, including potential violations of the Fourth Amendment, the Supremacy Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause.

Karla McKanders, director of the Immigration Practice Clinic at Vanderbilt Law School, said, “This bill is riddled with constitutional problems. Several Tennessee law professors and scholars with expertise in this area believe that passing this bill will expose Tennessee to costly liability and litigation.”

Domestic and Sexual Violence Advocates Warn of Decline in Reporting of Crime by Victims Should HB 2315 Go into Effect

Professionals working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence and other victims of crime urged the governor to veto the bill because “[t]his legislation would create a chilling effect for domestic violence survivors and other crime victims in the state of Tennessee, discouraging them from reporting crimes to local police for fear that they or their loved ones could end up detained or deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.”

According to their letter, “As the federal government ramped up threats to detain and deport as many immigrants as possible in early 2017, police departments across the country saw pronounced drops in reporting of serious crime by Latino or Hispanic residents.” In the first quarter of 2017, rapes reported by Hispanics declined nearly 43 percent in Houston and sexual assaults reported by Latinos declined nearly 25 percent in Los Angeles, compared to the same period in 2016.

Kathy Walsh, executive director or the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, stated, “Nationwide nearly 80 percent of immigrant survivors of domestic violence report having concerns about contacting the police. We should be working to make it easier and safer to report incidents of domestic violence and rape, not implementing policies that create fear and distrust of police for a violence survivor when she or he needs them most. HB 2315 is wrong for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and it is wrong for Tennessee.”

Defense Attorneys Find that HB 2315 Would Harm the Integrity of the Criminal Justice System

Numerous attorneys practicing criminal defense also called for the governor to veto HB 2315 because, their letter states, it “hijack[s] our [s]tate’s criminal justice system by turning it into the enforcement arm of the federal immigration system. … Whether innocent or guilty, [d]efendants are forced to interact with state and local officials within the criminal justice system … no matter the severity of the crime or the legitimacy of the allegations. … HB 2315 creates an environment where people who are undocumented must fear immigration officials every time they interact with the system. Such fear will cause [d]efendants to violate the terms of their pretrial release, to fail to appear in court or to avoid reporting to their probation officer.”

“In our country, all people are entitled to fair treatment in the justice system, regardless of their immigration status,” said Ursula Bailey, attorney and owner of the Law Office of Ursula Bailey in Knoxville. “HB 2315 undermines the criminal justice system’s guarantee of due process for all people by making the system feel like a deportation trap for individuals and their families. This bill interferes with people’s ability to fully participate in their defense and puts them at risk of remaining in the criminal justice system longer than they should solely due to their fear of deportation. We urge Governor Haslam to protect the integrity of our criminal justice system by vetoing HB 2315.”

The veto letter from constitutional, criminal procedure and immigration law experts can be found here.

The veto letter sent by domestic and sexual violence advocates can be found here.

The veto letter from criminal defense attorneys can be found here.

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