Dear Governor Haslam,
On behalf of Conexión Américas, a nonprofit organization serving Latino and other immigrant families across the state of Tennessee, we urge you to veto HB 2315/SB 2332. At at time when rural and urban communities expect elected officials to be focused on policies that advance economic opportunity, educational excellence and social cohesion that move our state forward, this troubling piece of legislation sets us back.
Despite questions regarding the constitutionality of the bill, its overreaching scope and fiscal burden on localities – not to mention its unmistakable anti-immigrant spirit – the bill now awaits your final approval.
HB 2315/SB 2332 attacks the civil liberties of Tennesseans. The bill requires local law enforcement agencies to comply with constitutionally dubious detainer requests. Several courts have ruled that ICE detainer requests violate the Fourth Amendment because local law enforcement agencies have no authority to detain someone for civil immigration offenses.
HB 2315/SB 2332 incites, legitimizes and codifies racial profiling by law enforcement and vigilantism by regular citizens. The bill authorizes law enforcement to indiscriminately inquire about immigration status. It also creates a mechanism to report local agencies who residents believe are not enforcing federal immigration laws, turning regular citizens into watchdogs for immigration officers.
HB 2315/SB 2332 makes all communities less safe. Local law enforcement agencies serve a vital role: ensuring the public safety of our communities. To achieve this, law enforcement officers rely heavily on the trust and cooperation of its residents. By authorizing local law enforcement to inquire about immigration status during routine interactions, HB 2315/SB 2332 erodes that trust. Victims and witnesses of crime will retreat to the shadows and crime will go unreported.
HB 2315/SB 2332 creates an unfunded mandate for cash-strapped localities. In fact, it shifts the responsibility of costs from the federal government to local communities. When local law enforcement chooses to comply with ICE requests, they do so on their own dime. Our communities, then, shoulder the costs of detaining someone – more beds in jails, overtime pay for officers – and litigation stemming from unconstitutional detainer requests.
Finally our state will suffer economic and reputational consequences from policies that promote the racial profiling of its residents and anyone choosing to visit. After passing similar legislation, our neighbors to the south –Georgia and Alabama– both endured tremendous losses to their agricultural industries after workers fled the state, leaving farmers with crops rotting in fields because there was no one left to harvest them. Additionally, as the country learned from SB 1070 in Arizona, harsh legislation like HB 2315/SB 2332 will cost us in tourism dollars. In the wake of SB 1070, countless public and private entities boycotted the state, cancelling previously planned official travel and conferences.
Our country has long served as a beacon of hope for immigrants seeking a better life, seeking to achieve their own version of our unique American dream. Immigrants are integral contributors to the economic and cultural vitality of our local communities and state.
Governor, please honor the values upon which our nation was founded and veto this harsh, un-American measure that, if enacted, would take our state backwards.
Co-Founder and Executive Director