Nashville City Council Passes Bill Stopping Assistance To Feds On Immigration

Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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The Nashville Metro Council has advanced legislation that would limit cooperation with immigration authorities and prevent local officials from requesting information about residents’ immigration status, making the Tennessee capital a sanctuary city in practice if not in name.

The measure, approved Tuesday night by a 25-8 vote, also prohibits Nashville and Davidson County law enforcement from using city funds and facilities to enforce federal immigration law, reports the Tennessean. The bill now moves to a third and final vote in July.

Called the “Nashville Together” ordinance by proponents, the bill prevents Metro officials, including police officers, from requesting information about a person’s immigration or citizenship status. The measure also blocks the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office from honoring immigration detention requests from immigration authorities — commonly known as “detainers” — unless they come with an arrest warrant issued by a federal judge.

Although the term “sanctuary city” is not mentioned in the bill’s draft language, it effectively cuts off voluntary cooperation with immigration authorities absent a judicial warrant. Supporters have dismissed arguments that the bill, if passed into law, will make Nashville less safe. Councilman Bob Mendes said it would encourage illegal immigrants to report crimes to police without fear of drawing the attention of federal authorities.

“This bill would have us send a message to our immigrant communities that it is safe to engage with Metropolitan government for all the basic local government services that we provide,” he said during Tuesday night’s floor debate on the bill.

Councilman Robert Swope countered that the bill would have “disastrous impacts” on Nashville and is unfair to law-abiding immigrants and native citizens.

“Any policy that invokes a feeling of sanctuary city status does nothing except create a criminal class that is treated better than the citizens who have elected all of us,” he told the council.

As the bill moves toward a final vote, legal questions remain over how much of it is enforceable due to Metro Nashville’s government structure. While the city and surrounding Davidson County operate under a unified government, Metro Legal Director Jon Cooper has said that Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall would not have to follow the bill’s restrictions because the sheriff is a state constitutional office.

Hall has publicly opposed the measure, saying that it would force him to release criminals into the community and that it infringes on his authority as an elected state officer.

“The sheriff is elected to run the jail. The budget comes from the city council,” he told Nashville’s News Channel 5. “They can cut my budget and do that, but they can’t order me how to run it.”

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Will Racke