A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Flickr (Public Domain)

Tennessee passes bill that allows local authorities to detain immigrants

It also outlaws sanctuary cities.


Samantha Grasso


Published Apr 26, 2018   Updated May 21, 2021, 5:26 pm CDT

A Tennessee bill that would outlaw sanctuary cities and require local law enforcement to assist U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in detaining undocumented immigrants is headed to Gov. Bill Haslam for his signature.

Featured Video Hide

According to the Tennessean, Tennessee House members approved HB 2315, sponsored by Rep. Jay Reedy (R-Erin), on Wednesday with a 64-23 vote. The bill passed the Senate later that day with a 25-5 vote, and now awaits an approval from Haslam.

Advertisement Hide

Currently, Tennessee has no sanctuary cities. However, the bill would prevent future cities from adopting “sanctuary” status by preventing any state or local government entities from receiving grants from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. If signed into law, the bill further requires local law enforcement to follow ICE detainers and hold undocumented immigrants for ICE detention and subsequent deportation.

Critics of the bill said the legislation may open local governments up to legal retribution if law enforcement illegally detains someone. Terry Ashe, executive director of the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association, previously testified that the states’ current detainer system worked without the legislation.

Rep. Reedy faced criticism from immigration rights advocates earlier this month when he used an ethnic slur for Latinx people while discussing the bill. Reedy had told a story of how he worked alongside migrant workers when he was in middle school, and said one of the workers was referred to by a friend as a “wetback.”

The bill’s passage in the House and Senate also comes weeks after ICE Home Security Investigations (HSI) agents arrested nearly 100 immigrants at a meatpacking plant in Bean Station, Tennessee. Eyewitness interviews conducted by Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) revealed that ICE had potentially arrested people with work authorizations, and targeted workers who appeared Latinx, without allowing the detained to ask any questions during the raid, the Intercept reported.

Advertisement Hide

The TIRRC has called upon Gov. Haslam to veto the bill, calling the legislation a “mass deportation” state policy that will coerce law enforcement to forgo ensuring a person’s detainer has probable cause or a judicial warrant before detaining them.

“We are urging the Governor to veto the Mass Deportation bill that would make Tennessee a dangerous place for immigrant families and cement our state’s reputation as hostile and unwelcoming,” Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of TIRRC, wrote in a statement. “HB2315 sets a dangerous precedent by severely restricting the ability of local police to make common-sense, public safety decisions, and forcing local governments to bear the risk and expense of federal immigration enforcement.”

A spokesperson for Haslam did not respond to the Tennessean‘s inquiry asking if he would consider vetoing the bill.

Share this article
*First Published: Apr 26, 2018, 8:43 am CDT