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Tennessee Republican Promises To Squash Nashville’s Sanctuary City Bill

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Nashville is on the brink of enacting a law that would limit most cooperation with federal immigration authorities, but a Tennessee state senator has vowed to make sure that the city’s status as a sanctuary jurisdiction is short-lived.

Republican State Sen. Jim Tracy said Wednesday that a proposal under consideration in the Nashville Metro Council would violate a state law enacted in 2009 that prevents any city in Tennessee from becoming a sanctuary city for illegal aliens. Even if a state court disagrees, he said, any sanctuary law the Metro Council passes will be met with a swift legislative response from the statehouse.

“It’s a feel good thing. It makes them feel good, but state law is going to overtrump it,” Tracy said of Nashville measure, which the council passed Tuesday night in the second of three scheduled votes.

“If something happens and this goes through and there’s a problem in January, we’ll come back and tighten the law down,” he added.

Although the term “sanctuary city” is not mentioned in the draft language of the Nashville bill, it effectively cuts off voluntary cooperation with immigration authorities absent a judicial warrant. If passed in a final vote in July, the law would prohibit Nashville and Davidson County law enforcement from using city funds and facilities to enforce federal immigration law. It would also keep Metro employees from requesting information from the federal government about a person’s citizenship or immigration status.

Tracy believes that the 2009 state law, which he sponsored, would preempt Metro’s sanctuary proposal. The Tennessee anti-sanctuary law states:

A local governmental entity or official shall not adopt any ordinance or written policy that expressly prohibits a local governmental entity, official, or employee from complying with applicable federal law pertaining to persons that reside within the state illegally. An official shall not materially interfere with the ability of a local governmental entity, official or employee of a municipality or a county to comply with applicable federal law pertaining to persons that reside within the state illegally.

“Obviously, the Metro resolution is contradictory of the state prohibition,” Tracy told WGNS News Radio. “The first response, should the ordinance pass, is to request an Attorney General’s opinion. Then if any further legislative action is needed, it will be filed immediately.”

A provision of the Metro bill barring Davidson County officials from honoring federal immigration detention requests might also run afoul of the state law. Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall claims the Metro Council, which funds jail operations, lacks the authority to restrict his cooperation with federal authorities because the sheriff is a state constitutional office.

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