This statement was released by the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), Rights Working Group Core Partner, on Tuesday, August 21.
Today, Sheriff Daron Hall announced that Davidson County will not renew its controversial 287(g) agreement with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). Today is a huge victory for the immigrant rights movement in Tennessee. Thank you for all your support and hard work over the years to end this program.
Today's announcement would not have come true were it not for the tireless organizing of immigrant youth in Tennessee who helped put an end to many deportations, if not for the Migrant Women's Committee that has stood up to the sheriff and exposed the 287(g)'s impact on women and children, and if not for the leadership of Elliott Ozment who challenged the program's legality at every turn.
For the past five years, TIRRC and our allies in the advocacy and legal community have put constant pressure on Davidson County elected officials to end the 287(g) program. This agreement between Davidson County and ICE has been mired in controversy and has gained Sheriff Hall a national reputation for civil and human rights abuse. The 287(g) program requires local sheriff's deputies to act as federal immigration agents by interrogating individuals about their national origin and immigration paperwork, regardless of the minor nature of their offense and whether they are found guilty. In the program's five years, over 10,000 community members have been ensnared in its wide net, mostly individuals charged with low-level infractions like fishing or driving without a license.
Thank you to everyone who was involved in the fight to end this program. Today's victory shows what we can do when we organize and stand up for our communities. Today we celebrate a step in the right direction, but we still have a lot of work to do in Davidson County and across Tennessee to stop the unjust deportations and separation of families. We hope you'll continue to fight with us to make Tennessee more welcoming and inclusive place for everyone.
The following is a statement by Stephen Fotopulos, Executive Director of the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition: "Our statewide coalition of immigrant and refugee communities welcomes today's announcement, an important step forward for the city of Nashville and five years overdue. Sheriff Hall has spent years grasping at statistical straws to justify his costly deportation program, a model so thoroughly discredited that ICE began defunding it across the country more than a year ago. Sheriff Hall has had a hand in separating thousands of immigrant families for no other crime than fishing or driving without a license, a costly and dangerous diversion of law enforcement resources. He has consistently misled Davidson County taxpayers about the program's purpose and its devastating impact on our community, selectively releasing data and failing to provide any meaningful transparency or accountability. It is true that Hall's program is but one cog in a sprawling and dysfunctional deportation machine, but his voluntary and insistent participation has given our city's reputation a long, black mark that will take many years to erase.
"We are encouraged that Hall has taken accurate measure of the changing political winds and finally realized what other city leaders have long understood: Harsh enforcement programs that unnecessarily separate immigrant families are not in line with basic Tennessee values of family, hard work, and fairness."