State, local officials push for immigration judge

Tuesday, March 25, 2008 at 2:46am

One the eve of the first anniversary of Davidson County’s 287(g) immigration enforcement program, state and local officials are making an effort to bring an immigration judge to the county.

The Sheriff’s Office announced at a press conference yesterday it would process 3,000 illegal immigrants by April through the program that allows local law enforcement to check immigration status and begin the process of deportation.

However, the process is lengthy and many immigrants pinpointed for removal have to be processed through a judge in Memphis or Oakdale, La., which could take up to six weeks for a bond hearing, according to one immigration advocate.

“This is outrageous and it cannot be allowed to continue,” said Elliot Ozment, immigration lawyer and chair of the immigration committee for the Nashville Bar Association.

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall has a solution.

Having an immigration judge in town, Hall says, would expedite the process.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and Representative Jim Cooper have already made a written request to the Department of Homeland Security for the installation of a judge locally. Both were on hand yesterday at the press conference.

In their request, Alexander and Cooper both cite the success of the county’s 287(g) program, writing that as the program matures, “allotting an immigration judge to Nashville would help expedite the process and alleviate the current logjam, thereby saving the federal government money while satisfying our local communities.”

Although local law enforcement officials have lauded the programs progress, 287(g) is not without criticism.

“This program has had a very chilling effect on the immigrant community and immigrant community members are much less willing to interact with the broader community,” said Stephen Fotopulos, policy director for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

The coalition has been monitoring the program since it’s inception last April.

Fotopulos is, however, in agreement that an immigration judge is needed.

“Certainly there is incredible injustice in the immigration system now where as someone is arrested in Nashville that could spend weeks in some jail [out of state],” Fotopulos said. “All the while not being able to talk to their immigration attorney or not being able to talk to their family.”

The judge would be provided through federal funding and Hall said an immediate fix could be a traveling judge that would cover several areas.

The 287(g) program is a portion of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act that was implemented here in March 2007 and is aimed at giving local governments the power to deport illegal immigrants.

Filed under: City News
By: WrdBrn on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Finally. We have needed this addition for years and years! Frankly, homeland security **with all due respect to Paul Revere and the minutemen, etc** should bite the bullet and open at least a temporary immigration office -- complete with some type of Administrative Law Judge - in every "tier one and two" city in the United States. This across the board request from Tennessee leadership may be one of the best examples of all political representation coming together to do something right; and if it lights a fire in other states-- maybe since the Continental Congress!

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Any city large enough for the 287(g) program is large enough to have an immigration judge. Those aspects--size, 287(g), & the judge--should be a package.Couldn't THE CITY PAPER have identified the people behind Dean in the picture? Isn't it standard practice for a caption to identify everyone?

By: Fundit on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Is that Marsha's face behind the microphone? We'll never know...

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Haveing a judge will save money and transportation problems. This is a no brainer but thats a problem trying to deal with Chertoff.Bush picked two unqualified individuals to be head of one of the most important agency in the country.

By: jsnap on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I say "congrats" to Sheriff Daron Hall on getting this up and going. At least someone cares.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Hall should retire and run for governor or Mayor. He seems like the only one that is able to get anything done in this town.

By: Magnum on 12/31/69 at 6:00

This is as much of a no brainer as wine in grocery stores...oh wait, these idiots can't even get that right.

By: Mario on 12/31/69 at 6:00

This situation reminds me of Sisyphus from Greek mythology, a king punished by being cursed to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll down again, and repeat this throughout eternity.The deportees continue to return to their spouses and children. The 3,000 deportees already knew how to come to Nashville. Do you really believe that they will not find a way back. The 287g program underscores the need for immigration reform or keep pushing the boulder up the hill.

By: lori390 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

We can pass all the reform we want, but the illegals never cared about the law before, and they are sure not gonna care now. The only way they want to come here is on their own terms. They will not abide by ANY rules we try to put in place.

By: Mario on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Keep pushing the boulder; its getting bigger.

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Lori, don't malign our ancestors. Almost everyone who writes at this site comes from people who didn't come here legally.Almost all so-called "illegals" work hard while here, trying to improve their lives & the lives of their families, just like you & me.