The Nashville Metro Council plans to withdraw a controversial immigration bill amid intense opposition from city officials and state lawmakers, effectively ending a campaign to make Nashville a sanctuary city.
The sponsors of of the bill said Wednesday they had no choice but to table the proposal because of mounting pressure from state Republicans and a legal opinion from City Director of Law Jon Cooper, who said last week the ordinance is not enforceable as written. At-large Councilman Bob Mendes, the bill’s primary sponsor, conceded that “political realities” forced a retreat, the Tennessean reported.
“Despite the popular support in Davidson County, there’s been a great deal of opposition from outside the county, and these bills have become a political football for people running for governor in the Republican primary and other races statewide,” Mendes said at a news conference Wednesday.
The withdrawal is a stunning setback for the bill’s supporters, who just one week ago appeared to be on the cusp of victory. The Metro Council passed the bill — known locally as the “Nashville Together” ordinance — in a 25-8 vote on June 20, and the measure appeared certain to pass a final vote scheduled for July. (RELATED: Nashville City Council Passes Bill Stopping Assistance To Feds On Immigration)
Although the term “sanctuary city” is not mentioned in the bill’s draft language, it would effectively prohibit all voluntary cooperation with immigration officials. If passed, the measure would have prevented Metro employees, including police officers, from requesting information about a person’s immigration or citizenship status. It also would have blocked the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office from honoring immigration detention requests from immigration authorities — commonly known as “detainers” — unless they came with an arrest warrant issued by a federal judge.
After passing the second of three Metro Council votes, the bill came under fire from Republicans in the statehouse, who accused city lawmakers of flouting an existing statewide ban on sanctuary cities and promised a swift legislative response. State Sen. Jim Tracy said state law would “overtrump” whatever measure emerged from the Council. (RELATED: Tennessee Republican Promises To Squash Nashville’s Sanctuary City Bill)
“Obviously, the Metro resolution is contradictory of the state prohibition,” Tracy told WGNS News Radio the day after the city council approved the bill. “The first response, should the ordinance pass, is to request an Attorney General’s opinion. Then if any further legislative action is needed, it will be filed immediately.”
Further resistance came from Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall, who panned the bill as a threat to public safety and insisted he had the final word on the operation of county jails. Law Director Cooper agreed with that assessment, telling the Metro Council that it could not keep Hall from cooperating with federal authorities on immigration.
Facing doubts about the bill’s legality and the threat of retaliation from state Republicans, Nashville Mayor Megan Berry on Tuesday urged the council to “rethink” its upcoming vote. Her suggestion appears to have killed any remaining momentum the proposal had in the Metro Council.
Councilman Colby Sledge, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, promised to continue the push toward a more “welcoming” policy on immigration.
“Whether or not there is legislation, we have to continue working on this,” he said. “There’s no choice here.”
“Unfortunately, we’ve had a lot of voices come from outside tell us who Nashville is, and that’s not who we are,” he added.
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