By Peter White
NASHVILLE, TN — A small crowd of demonstrators rallied outside City Hall recently and marched three blocks to Sheriff Daron Hall’s office on 2nd Avenue.
“We need a clear statement from him whether or not he’s going to stand with immigrants and stop his collaboration or is he going to continue to sow fear and lack of confidence within our community,” said Cathy Carrillo, Spokesperson for Nashville Community Defense.
Six years ago, Hall was enforcing the controversial 287(g) program in Nashville which deputized local police and sheriff deputies as federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents. Thousands were deported.
“My father was taken away from my family when I was 13 in 2009,”said Carrillo. She said 287(g) was still being enforced then. “The police pulled him over for a broken taillight. He had a valid license, registration, and insurance,” she said. In her early 20s now, Carrillo is a dreamer but papers won’t mean much if her family gets deported.
The 287(g) program tore apart families and deprived families of their breadwinner.
In Nashville, Hall said his deputies aren’t conducting raids anymore but he said they are following the “Secure Communities” protocol, an Obama mandate to share information between law enforcement agencies and ICE, part of the Department of Homeland Security(DHS).
“If you’re arrested for DUI, it goes to the ICE information system and they say “we want you to hold him’,” said Sheriff Hall. The 48-hour hold, called a detainer warrant, means ICE has two days to pick you up. Hall said someone wouldn’t be in ICE’s database unless they had previously violated immigration laws.
In 2012, President Obama cancelled the 287(g) program and started the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and on the enforcement side, the Secure Communities program. He issued executive orders because Congress didn’t pass an immigration reform bill. DACA was a temporary fix for the five million Dreamers and their parents who Obama promised would not be deported if they registered and passed a criminal background check. Secure Communities was supposed to catch gang members and criminals.
Immigration advocates felt Obama did not go far enough because at least six million immigrants were left out of his DACA proposal. Others thought he went too far. Along with a promise to the Dreamers, Obama beefed up border security and streamlined deportations by encouraging local law enforcement to use the FBI database to run criminal background checks and those fingerprints are shared with ICE.
In 2012, the Secure Communities program detained almost 500,000 people. From 2008-2014, the number of criminals detained without documents and deported rose eighty percent. In 2014, President Obama announced he was ending the Secure Communities program because it cast too wide net and tore families apart.
“Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day,” said Obama in a televised speech from the White House in November 2014.
Obama urged ICE officials and law enforcement agencies to use discretion with college students and veterans while waiting for Congress to fix a broken immigration system. This week in Washington Congress has finally taken up the immigration debate and more than the fate of the Dreamers is at stake..
According to the Atlantic, immigration arrests increased by 40 percent between January and May of 2017. ICE claimed three quarters of those arrested were convicted criminals but the number of immigrants with no criminal record who were arrested was 10,800 compared to 4,200 from January to May in 2016.
The ACLU’s Brian Tashman reported last week that ICE has ramped up its operations arresting parents dropping off their kids at school,
children going to hospitals, primary caregivers of family member with disabilities, and people who show up for routine check-in meetings with immigration agents.
“Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan have even threatened to arrest local officials who do not cooperate with ICE,” wrote Tashman.
Cody Wofsy, an ACLU staff attorney, said Nielsen’s threat may be bluster but it’s clear DHS and ICE are trying to bully local officials into helping them with deportations. He said ICE can arrest people on its own but local police are not obliged to help them.
“There is no basis in federal law to prosecute government officials who decide, with and on behalf of their constituents, that their communities are better served by opting out of participation in the federal deportation system,” Wofsy said.
The city council did not pass a vote to make Nashville a sanctuary city last Summer but still want the “It” city to be immigrant-friendly. Sheriff Hall said some advocates are spreading rumors that there are round ups and sweeps going on in Nashville.
“That might happen but it’s not happened in Nashville. More people are not being taken out of jail by ICE,” said Hall. He said out of 40,000 people arrested last year in Davidson County, 560 were turned over to ICE. That’s about 1.4 percent. Hall said that is fewer than the number who were turned over to Immigration during the Obama administration.
“I‘m not interested in getting any further involved with immigration but I’m also
not on the side of ignoring the federal government when they tell me they want someone,” Hall said.
“We don’t go around rounding up people. That’s not our role,” he said.