More on Haslam and the ‘sanctuary cities bill’

Gov. Bill Haslam has elaborated on his decision to let the controversial “sanctuary cities bill” become law without his signature, reports the Times Free Press. And several politicians and individuals are offering comments on the move.

He said critics are wrong in saying it amounts to a “mass deportation” measure. And proponents are wrong, the governor said, when they claim Tennessee has “sanctuary cities.”

… The law says local governments would be required to comply with federal immigration detainers, without requiring warrants or probable cause, for the potential deportation of people who were arrested on other charges and found to be in the U.S. illegally.

But Haslam’s deputy counsel, Todd Skelton, told reporters the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s current policy requires probable cause and a warrant for detainers.

… “If we vetoed this bill, I’m relatively confident there would at least be a special session. If not, it would be one of the first items that would be discussed in next year’s session,” said the governor, who leaves office in January.

But he said he wouldn’t sign it because that would mean he believes Tennessee has an “issue” around sanctuary cities, which he said it does not. Lawmakers several years ago passed a law banning them. The new legislation provides more details.

Civil rights and immigrant groups have charged the bill mandates local law enforcement detain immigrants for deportation at the request of federal officials without requiring warrants or probable cause.

Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, blasted the governor for not vetoing the bill, calling the measure “dangerous and misguided.”

“[H]e caved to the most extreme fringe of the electorate,” Teatro said. “He chose hate and fear over good governance.”

Some other comments emailed to media:

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally“I believe Gov. Haslam made a wise decision allowing this legislation to pass. There are no sanctuary cities in Tennessee and his action today assures that remains the case. As a supporter of the bill, I believe this is a good result for all.”

House Speaker Beth Harwell“I appreciate Governor Haslam allowing House Bill 2315 to become law. This measure will further allow our local, state, and federal officials to work together to keep our communities safe, building on the law we passed in 2009 to outlaw sanctuary city policies.” 

Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Tennessee:

“We are extremely disappointed in Governor Haslam’s decision to let this unconstitutional and dangerous legislation become law without his signature. Immigrants should not have to live with the constant fear that any local police officer or sheriff they encounter is a de facto immigration agent. By allowing this bill to become law, the governor has ensured that thousands of Tennesseans will be forced to live in the shadows, in fear of reporting when they are victims or witnesses to crimes and undermining local law enforcement’s ability to use their discretion and resources in the way that they believe best protects public safety in their local community. The dangerous impact this bill will have on immigrant communities has led to a public outcry throughout the state and from all corners of the country, and it is disgraceful that the governor chose not to listen to the diverse voices united in calling for immigrants in our state to be treated fairly, in alignment with the Constitution.


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