STATEMENT | Committee Defeats Bill to turn Tennessee Courts into ICE Courts


For Immediate Release: 
March 27, 2019
Contact: Hamp Price | | (615) 241-0752

Committee Defeats Bill to turn Tennessee Courts into ICE Courts
HB1238 sought to burden our criminal justice system with civil immigration law

Nashville, TN - The House Criminal Justice subcommittee killed today a measure aimed at turning our local courts into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) courts and our judges into ICE agents. HB1238, introduced by Representative Bruce Griffey (R- Paris), would force general sessions judges to require every defendant to state their citizenship and/or immigration status at the beginning of a criminal proceeding.

While an amendment was introduced to remove certain provisions, the original intent and consequences remained. HB 1238 and its amendment sought to make several changes that insert federal civil immigration issues into local criminal courts and create unnecessary, costly, and bureaucratic steps for an already overburdened system. Under federal law, all jails in the U.S. comply with Secure Communities (S-Comm), which requires that biometric information (i.e. fingerprints) for every person booked into jail be automatically sent to several federal law enforcement agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

HB1238 was one of many bills introduced by Rep. Griffey with the intent of making Tennessee an "unfriendly" state to undocumented immigrants, and it met a similar fate as several pieces of his legislation:

  • HB1238 - Burdening our Criminal Justice System - failed in subcommittee

  • HJR47 - A Shameful Resolution Attacking US Citizens - failed in subcommittee

  • HB0562 - Taxing Hardworking Tennesseans - failed in subcommittee

  • HB0662 - Denying US Citizen Babies their Rights - taken off notice

  • HB0614 - Making Tennesseans Homeless Bill - sent to summer study in committee

Only one remains alive: HB1239, which would create barriers to employment, was passed to House Calendar & Rules.

The following is a statement from Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, policy director at TIRRC Votes:

"We celebrate the defeat of this incredibly reckless and misguided bill. Our legislature should be moving in the opposite direction to further disentangle the federal immigration system from our local criminal justice system.  When our jails and courts are collaborating with ICE, trust in the community is eroded and critical resources are diverted to doing the work of the federal government.

House committees have made the right decision and rejected many of the extreme, hate-driven bills that do nothing to improve our state. We urge the Senate to recognize that HB1239, Rep. Griffey's bill to expand E-Verify, is similarly misguided and damaging. If it passes, it would be the second harshest law of its kind in the country, burdening small businesses and requiring the vast majority of Tennesseans to get a permission slip to work."


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).

Rebecca Hall