Sheriff Daron Hall is confident the 287(g) program will continue to be administered in Nashville, despite his contention that a revision — one which renders detainee records inaccessible absent a FOIA request — runs afoul of state law.
The 287(g) program, which was implemented in Nashville in April 2007, authorizes local law enforcement officers to enforce immigration law through a specific section of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Hall met with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials this week to lobby for the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office to be allowed to release inmate records.
“It says we basically want to follow public records law in Tennessee,” he said. “What got misconstrued is that the federal government is tightening up on releasing its data. They’ve always been this way.”
Hall said he is awaiting word from Washington as to whether or not ICE will accept the city’s revisions.
“What got incredibly sensationalized is that the new (Memorandum of Agreement) changes the way we do business. Nothing would be changed a bit,” he said.
Where before 287(g) only allowed screening after the commission of felony offenses — though a number of widely publicized cases show the Sheriff’s Office didn’t strictly adhere to that particular provision — the changes in language to the MOA allow anyone charged with any offense to be screened.
In Nashville, inmates are screened for immigration violations only after they are booked on other charges.
The fact that ICE is considering modifying its language at all to keep Nashville in the program is a bit surprising to immigration attorney Linda Rose.
“Nashville sits among the top in aggressive administration of the 287(g) program. I think the feds want to put some limitation on it, because it’s eating up resources,” she said.
Rose sees the federal revision as well intentioned — because local implementation of the program often nets illegal immigrants who have committed no felonies — if a little clumsy in execution.
“I think in not releasing the information it would protect people who don’t deserve to be exposed in that way,” Rose said.
However, American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Tricia Herzfeld sees a revision that will eliminate the transparency that was ensured by state open records law.
“Anytime you’ve got a program like this going on, the No. 1 way you want to monitor it is open records requests. You can’t effectively monitor it if that information is being closed off,” she said.
Records requests of this kind to the federal government, which less than a decade ago might have taken a month or so, now take a year or more.
“They took a bad thing and made it worse,” Herzfeld added.
Since the program's inception the Sheriff's Office has identified more than 6,000 illegal immigrants that have been processed for deportation.
Hall has said it has been an effective tool in deterring crimes committed by illegal immigrants, noting crime in that demographic is down 46 percent.