Haslam to allow sanctuary cities bill to become law
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday that he will not be signing the sanctuary cities bill passed by the Tennessee General Assembly last month.
Haslam had three options: sign the bill, veto the bill, or allow it to become law without his signature.
State lawmakers passed the bill in April as the session came to an end. The bill passed in the house by a 63-23 vote and the Senate 27-5.
The bill, for the most part, is opposed by most law enforcement agencies in the state because it mandates that local law enforcement officers comply with ICE to hold immigrants for purposes of deportation. Law enforcement officials said that would place additional burdens on them.
Other key components of the bill prevent any local government from receiving state economic and community grants if a sanctuary policy was enacted. Currently, there are no sanctuary cities in Tennessee.
"On both sides, it's stirred up what I think is some irrational fear," Haslam said. "I'm not going to sign this and allow it to become law without my signature."
Haslam said he feared if he vetoed the measure, lawmakers would push for a special session to override it or bring it up next year.
"I think the best thing for the state to do with this decision is move on from it," Haslam said.
The issue set off a firestorm of controversy in recent weeks because of fears it would compel local law enforcement across the state like Memphis police or Shelby County Sheriff's deputies to carry out the work of immigration and customs agents.
But Haslam said after researching the bill, that's not the case.
"There's a feeling this is a mass deportation bill which this is not," Haslam said.
The governor said the bill defines what a sanctuary city is – though they're already banned by Tennessee law – and establishes potential financial penalties if cities decide to defy state law on sanctuary cities.
The Shelby County Commission voted 7-0 earlier this month to send the governor a recommendation to veto the bill amid concerns over racial profiling.
In a statement, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland's office said the city's legal team has reviewed the bill and determined it will not affect operations.
A spokesperson for the Shelby County Sheriff's Office said the only real implication for them is that they would continue to hold someone for the feds who has been arrested and has an ICE detainer, which is something they frequently do anyway.
Latino Memphis issued the following statement on the governor's actions:
Today, Governor Haslam chose to ignore the wishes of his constituents and make HB 2315 into law. HB 2315 is an anti sanctuary city bill that would force local law enforcement to cooperate with ICE. This will give increased ICE authority to continue to terrorize innocent families. Our local law enforcement officials know what our communities need and destroying that trust capital between local law enforcement and the communities they serve is a public safety issue for all of us. This bill became law without a signature by the Governor. Despite all the push against this bill with numerous letters and calls, Governor Haslam chose to attack our neighbors and friends. No, Governor Haslam, we will not be moving on. We will fight harder to ensure that the voices of our community are heard. #Heretostay
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