Black urges Haslam to sign controversial anti-sanctuary cities legislation

Black urges Haslam to sign controversial anti-sanctuary cities legislation

May 3rd, 2018 by Andy Sher in Breaking News

This story was updated May 3, 2018, at 11:59 p.m.

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Republican gubernatorial hopeful Diane Black Thursday urged Gov. Bill Haslam to sign a controversial anti-"sanctuary city" bill that threatens local governments with loss of new state economic development grants if they don't cooperate with federal immigration officials.

"The voters of Tennessee want our leaders in Nashville to get tough on illegal immigration," reads a statement from Black, a congresswoman running in the multi-candidate GOP gubernatorial primary on Aug. 2. "Sanctuary cities have no place in our state, and Governor Haslam should sign the anti-sanctuary cities legislation passed by the General Assembly — the duly elected representatives of the people of Tennessee."

Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., speaks at the Susan B. Anthony List and Life Institute Luncheon Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., speaks at the Susan...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

She called it a "common- sense bill that supports law enforcement and prohibits local governments from rewarding illegal immigration. It needs to become a common-sense law."

Haslam's office had no immediate comment.

When asked about the legislation last week, the term-limited governor told reporters "on that bill in particular we want to look at any constitutional issues that might exist as well as real issues for local law enforcement."

"We literally haven't seen the language," said Haslam, noting provisions "took a couple of turns there in the end."

Although Tennessee already has a 2009 law barring cities and counties from adopting so-called "sanctuary" policies regarding undocumented immigrants, proponents say the bill, sponsored by Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, and Rep. Jay Reedy, R-Erwin, applies to unwritten policies and practices and has economic consequences.

The bill requires local sheriffs and police to go along with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to hold immigrants suspected of entering the country illegally.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam

Photo by Erin O. Smith

The requests, under what is known as a "detainer" or "immigration hold," are used by federal authorities to have local and state law enforcement agencies detain people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally who've come into contact with police.

Under President Donald Trump's administration, federal officials are moving more aggressively on deportation efforts.

During committee hearings, Terry Ashe, executive director of the Tennessee Sheriffs Association, told lawmakers that sheriffs typically comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests to keep detainees for 48 hours. That often runs longer because the limitation doesn't include weekends and holidays. But Ashe said sheriffs need flexibility to release people mistakenly identified as being in the U.S. illegally. Law enforcement currently has discretion to do that, Ashe said.

Contact Andy Sher at or 616-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.