Press Release from the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee; May 16, 2011:
Because Freedom Can’t Protect Itself
This week the Tennessee Legislature will be voting on two bills that encourage racial and ethnic profiling: our very own Arizona-style copycat bill and the anti-Muslim bill. Both bills make Tennessee into a place where individuals and organizations are targeted for harassment by the government based on ethnicity, culture, and appearance.
Stop Tennessee from Becoming Arizona
HB 1380/SB 0780 requires all law enforcement to question the immigration status of any person they stop, regardless of whether the person is actually charged with breaking a law. The bill implies that police will be trained to ask people for their “papers” based on an undefined “reasonable suspicion” that they are in this country unlawfully. The criteria for assessing such a suspicion will inevitably be accent, attire, hair, jewelry or skin color.
The Attorney General recently issued an opinion stating that certain aspects of this bill are unconstitutional. Furthermore, economically, this bill will really hurt Tennessee. In addition to the loss of revenue from depressed tourism and economic development, as seen in Arizona, the bill’s fiscal note increases state and local expenditures by nearly $5 million in the first year alone.
Oppose Harassment of Tennessee’s Muslim Community
HB1353/SB1028 is a loosely-worded bill that accomplishes little of its stated intent of fighting terrorism and instead leaves Muslims feeling targeted and harassed for practicing their religion. Even with amendments that remove specific references to Islam, the bill’s original wording casts a pall over any claim that it is not intended to target a specific group of Tennesseans.
The amended bill still raises serious First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment concerns with its vague definitions and its lack of due process for designated organizations. Furthermore, the federal government already has ample authority to identify and designate terrorist groups, freeze their assets, and prohibit individuals from providing support to those groups.