As we move into the third week of the legislative session, we are already reviewing a number of bills that undermine fair treatment and due process for immigrants. First up this week: the Arizona-style copycat bill that encourages racial and ethnic profiling will be heard in the House General Subcommittee of Finance, Ways and Means on Wednesday afternoon.
HB 1380/SB780 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.
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.
Alabama, Tennessee’s neighbor to the south, passed a similarly egregious anti-immigrant bill last year that has faced legal challenges from the ACLU and our allies, as well as the Department of Justice. Additional states that have enacted Arizona-copycat laws such as Utah, Indiana, Georgia and South Carolina, have likewise faced legal challenges and had numerous provisions found unconstitutional. Not only do these laws preempt federal law by misappropriating immigration enforcement as a state power, they offend our values of fair treatment and due process.
Thank you for using your voice in support of justice for all.
Executive Director, ACLU of Tennessee