RELEASE | Two Bills Filed to Address “Anti-Sanctuary City” Law

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For Immediate Release: February 7, 2019
Contact: Hamp Price |
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Two Bills Filed to Address Dangerous and Costly Provisions of New, “Anti-Sanctuary City” Law
Democratic lawmakers introduce measures to protect local governments from harmful provisions of sweeping 2018 law

NASHVILLE - This week, two pieces of legislation were filed to relieve state and local governments and agencies from some of the most disastrous provisions of the so-called “anti-sanctuary city” law that passed the state legislature last year. The bill was passed despite widespread opposition from and concerns raised by law enforcement, legal experts, domestic violence victims advocates, and educators, among others. The law went into effect on January 1, 2019, sending a wave of fear across immigrant communities and causing confusion for many public employees about their role in enforcing federal immigration laws.  

The first bill, SB0931/HB1110, introduced by Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) and Representative Jason Powell (D-Nashville), seeks to restore trust between local immigrant communities and state and local government by exempting certain agencies and individuals from the anti-sanctuary city law. Under current law, local police departments cannot have any policies to prohibit asking individuals about their immigration status, which would reassure immigrants they can feel safe calling the police. SB0931/HB1110 clarifies that police departments do not have to inquire about the status of victims or witnesses, encouraging the cooperation of immigrant communities in reporting and solving crimes. The bill would also exempt health and educational institutions, allowing these agencies to reassure immigrant families that they can access critical services like vaccinations or participate in their child’s education without fear of deportation.

The second bill, SB0507/HB0558, introduced by Senator Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) and House Minority Leader Karen Camper (D-Memphis), would require the state to reimburse localities for expenses incurred in complying with the anti-sanctuary city law. For example, the new law tries to force local governments to detain individuals for the federal government, without a warrant or probable cause and without being reimbursed. In addition to reimbursing local governments for the cost of these detentions, the legislation also would require the state to cover the cost of litigation and potential damages if any local government is sued as a result of their compliance with HB2315. Across the country, local governments have been required to pay significant damages when collaboration with federal immigration enforcement agencies has been found to violate an individual’s constitutional rights. SB0507/HB0558 also creates a reporting mechanism to track the overall, true cost of this hastily passed law and to better understand how many local tax dollars are being diverted to do the work of the federal government.

The following is a quote from Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) on SB0931/HB1110:

“Communities are built on trust. The job of law enforcement is to promote public safety and investigate crimes, but they cannot do that effectively when large portions of our communities are afraid to call the police or serve as witnesses. I want my local police department to be able to enact common-sense policies that keep our whole community safe, including being able to reassure immigrants who are victims and witnesses that they can cooperate without losing their families.”

The following is a quote from Representative Jason Powell (D-Nashville) on SB0931/HB1110:

“No matter how you feel about immigration, we know our communities work best when everyone participates. The law that was passed last year drives a wedge between immigrant communities and their local governments, making us all less safe. In my district, one of the most diverse in the state, there is a deep sense of fear amongst many of my constituents. This bill would help to restore trust by ensuring that schools, clinics, and hospitals are safe places for serving all Tennesseans.”

The following is a quote from Senator Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) on SB0507/HB0558:

“Too often the state legislature saddles local governments with costly, unfunded mandates. We believe it’s critical the state understand the true cost of legislation like HB2315 and that the state legislature take responsibility for the legislation it passes. Memphis is a city that celebrates diversity and people there don’t want local resources committed to anti-immigrant campaigns.”

The following is a quote from House Minority Leader Karen Camper (D-Memphis) on SB0507/HB0558:

“Memphians want our state and local governments to use resources effectively and prioritize our community’s needs. We must allow local leaders to invest in areas with desperate need like education and healthcare -- not force them to divert critical resources to help the federal government deport undocumented members of our community.”

The following is a quote from Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, the Policy Director at TIRRC Votes:

“As HB2315 was debated last year, we testified in committee and raised the alarm about the underlying motivations for this bill and the unintended consequences. Unfortunately, in an election year, members of the legislature chose cheap politics over sound policy. We applaud the sponsors for introducing these bills, which are an important first step in fixing some of the most harmful provisions of this sweeping and misguided new law and repairing some of the trust in local government that has been deeply severed by the passage of HB2315.”


TIRRC Votes was launched in 2018 to strengthen and expand our democracy by building power in immigrant and refugee communities and advocating for equitable and inclusive public policy. TIRRC Votes is affiliated with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC).

TIRRC is a statewide, immigrant and refugee-led collaboration whose mission is to empower immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee to develop a unified voice, defend their rights, and create an atmosphere in which they are recognized as positive contributors to the state. Since its founding in 2001, TIRRC has worked to develop immigrant leadership, build the capacity of its immigrant-led member organizations, help immigrant community members understand and engage in the civic process, and educate the public about policies that would better promote integration of new immigrants and facilitate their full participation in US society. In just a few years TIRRC has grown from a grassroots network of community leaders into one of the most diverse and effective coalitions of its kind, a model for emerging immigrant rights organizations in the Southeast and throughout the United States.

Rebecca Hall