Nashville ‘sanctuary city’ ordinance shelved amid new legal opinion, Republican howls of protest

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry urged city council members Tuesday to reconsider their support for an ordinance that critics – including most of the state’s Republican politicians, it seems – contend would make the state’s capitol a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants.

The council members sponsoring the ordinance, meanwhile, announced they are scrapping plans for a final vote on the proposal July 6. They didn’t say when, or if, it will be rescheduled.

Barry cited a legal opinion from Metro Director of Law Jon Cooper that says state law blocks a city government from telling the Davidson County sheriff that he cannot cooperate with federal authorities on immigration. said that under state law the council cannot prohibit the Nashville sheriff, a state constitutional officer who controls the city’s jails, from cooperating with federal authorities on immigration.

From The Tennessean’s report:

Barry followed with a statement that said “it is clear from this legal opinion” that the ordinance does not apply to Sheriff Daron Hall, who has already said he does not plan to change detention practices at Nashville’s jails if the council approves the legislation.

The mayor also raised new concerns from the Metro Nashville Police Department, which worries the ordinance would prohibit them from recommending U visa applications for immigrants who are victims of crime and are seeking to alert police. Those are special visas made available to crime victims.

“Losing that law enforcement tool could jeopardize public safety and would run counter to the intentions of the sponsors to make Nashville a more welcoming city for New Americans,” said Barry, who has previously been neutral on the proposal.

“The Metro Council should give serious consideration to these factors and reconsider whether this legislation is appropriate or necessary at this time.”

Dubbed the “Nashville Together” ordinances by supporters, the primary bill — advanced by a 25-8 vote last week — seeks to prevent Metro from using city funds and facilities to enforce federal immigration law.

That includes a prohibition on agreeing to detainer requests from federal immigration officials unless they are accompanied by a federal warrant signed by a judge. Metro employees also would be prohibited from requesting information about a person’s immigration or citizenship status.

The proposed ordinance has brought remarkable outpouring of criticism from Republican politicians. A sampler:

–63 of the 74 state House Republicans Monday issued a call for the Metro Council to drop the proposals that “are in violation of current law and place Tennesseans at risk.” Two others joined in denouncing them Wednesday – Reps. Kevin Brooks of Cleveland and Susan Lynn of Mount Juliet. In Lynn’s case, the press release came after one of her announced opponents in the 2018 GOP primary attacked her in a press release for not joining the original 63. Nine Republican state senators issued a separate but similar criticism of the proposals.

–All announced Republican gubernatorial candidates have climbed aboard the ordinance-bashing bandwagon – the first being state Sen. Mae Beavers, the last being Randy Boyd, who issued a press release Wednesday. Businessman Bill Lee was in between.

Prospective candidates for the GOP gubernatorial nomination have also been active. House Speaker Beth Harwell joined state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, in announcing they have requested a legal opinion from state Attorney General Herbert Slatery that – probably – will say something along the lines of the Metro law director’s opinion that the proposal runs afoul of state law.

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, after issuing critical statements earlier, on Wednesday announced she has filed an amendment to a bill pending in Congress – the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act” – that “significantly increases the amount (of federal funding) that could be withheld from a municipality obstructing federal immigration laws.”

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