Tennessee hasn’t particularly been known for being an anti-immigrant state, but this week it is making news in the immigration world for all the wrong reasons.
Rep. Scott Desjarlais (R-TN), a former physician who was fined for having extramarital affairs with female patients and pressuring one to have an abortion, is in addition now famous for heartlessly telling 11-year-old Josie Molina Macaraeg that she could not help her father—who is in deportation proceedings—because “we have laws [and] we need to follow those laws.”
Sheriff Jimmy (J.J.) Jones of Knox County, Tennessee, apparently believes in a different philosophy when it comes to immigrants, because he’s currently insisting on ‘helping’ ICE out with immigration enforcement–even though, like with a snot-nosed tagalong little brother, ICE has told him to go home and bug somebody else. ICE, due to sequestration budget cuts, canceled a 287(g) plan to train and authorize Jones’ deputies to root out undocumented immigrants who find themselves caught up in county jails. Sheriff Jones, via an angry post on his website yesterday, announced that he plans to identify these immigrants and send them off to ICE anyway:
I will continue to enforce these federal immigration violations with or without the help of U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). If need be, I will stack these violators like cordwood in the Knox County Jail until the appropriate federal agency responds.
Got that? That’s a lawman who deliberately wants to ignore a policy just so that he can try to make sure that immigrants caught in his net are deported. As Lawrence Downes at the New York Times put it, “Stack these violators like cordwood: That’s brutal imagery, befitting a violent demagogue, not a sworn peace officer.”
Last year, the ACLU examined a 287(g) program in Davidson County, Tenn. (Nashville), which deported nearly 10,000 people, and found that it had exacted a very high price: “multiple negative effects on due process, community policing and public safety,” as it said in its report. “The vast majority of people who were deported under this program,” the report said, “were stopped for non-violent misdemeanors such as driving or fishing without a license. These people included parents, students, workers, primary caregivers and otherwise upstanding community residents, people who did not threaten public safety.”
As Downes at the New York Times concluded:
Sheriff Jones falsely equates unauthorized immigration with rampant and dangerous criminality. He defames good people in his community while spouting discredited right-wing talking points about evil outsiders. He’s as wrong as can be, and all the people are Knox County should be glad that he is not going to be an official partner of ICE.