Tennessee law prohibits sanctuary cities, but the state just banned them again

Gov. Haslam allowed a bill banning sanctuary cities to become law without his signature.

(Credit: Getty Images)
(Credit: Getty Images)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) announced Monday that he would allow a bill banning sanctuary cities in the state to become law without his signature — despite the fact that Tennessee has no sanctuary cities and state law already prohibits such status.

“I think the best thing for the state to do with this decision is to move on from it because it has stirred up fear that, I said, is unfounded,” Haslam said, according to The Tennessean. “Confusion and fear are … not good reasons to drive political decisions.”

Despite these apparent objections, Haslam didn’t stand in the way of the bill becoming law, claiming that if he had vetoed the bill, the debate would have dragged on to the next legislative session.

Under the law, which will take effect in January 2019, local governments that do not comply with the ban on “sanctuary” policies and practices could lose future state funding. Local governments are also required to comply with federal immigration authorities in the possible deportation of undocumented immigrants. This is a departure from current policy, which requires the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to have probable cause and a warrant prior to detaining individuals.


While the measure doesn’t prevent police departments from implementing policies to ask detainees about their immigration status, police officers would not be required to make those inquiries, Haslam said, according to the Associated Press.

Following the move to allow the bill to become law, Haslam faced backlash from immigrant advocacy groups, as well as various Tennessee police departments.

“By letting this un-American racial profiling law go into effect, you have put a target on the back of thousands of Tennesseans, rejected the values upon which our nation was founded, and set our state backwards,” Renata Soto, executive director of Conexión Américas, told The Tennessean in a statement.

Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson echoed those concerns, telling Haslam in a letter that the policy would encourage racial profiling and discourage immigrant communities from cooperating with police.

“If there is confusion and apprehension on the part of any person as to whether an interaction and cooperation with local authorities might produce a detrimental effect, then the safety of all of our communities is diminished,” he wrote.


Indeed, Many police departments across the country choose not to enforce federal immigration law because doing so could make immigrants more distrustful of police officers and less likely to report crimes — even if they are the victims.

This distrust between immigrants and police officers is all the more likely now, especially following the federal immigration raid in April that resulted in the detainment of almost 100 people at an eastern Tennessee meat packing plant — 86 of whom have faced deportation proceedings.

That raid would have occurred with or without the sanctuary city law, Haslam said.