U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) along with U.S. Representatives Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) today joined Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall and other local officials here to mark the one-year anniversary of a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) immigration enforcement program that has targeted nearly 3,000 illegal immigrants for removal from Davidson County.
The lawmakers said these numbers prove that DHS’s 287(g) program has been a success in enforcing immigration laws and removing illegal immigrants from the Nashville area, and that it is time to install an immigration judge in Nashville. The 287(g) program provides federal immigration enforcement training for Davidson County Sheriff’s Deputies, who are then able to check the immigration status of individuals being held in the county jail and initiate deportation proceedings if they are determined to be in the country illegally.
“We need to regain the public’s confidence when it comes to illegal immigration, and to do that we must secure our borders and enforce the laws we have now,” Sen. Alexander said. “The Davidson County Sheriff’s Office has made the 287(g) program a great success. Now it is time for Nashville to get its own immigration judge. Other cities – like Charlotte, North Carolina – received judges shortly after they began participating in the 287(g) program, but Nashville still has to ship suspected illegal immigrants to Memphis and Louisiana for hearings. Davidson County processes more illegal immigrants than any county east of Phoenix, and it’s time for the government to recognize this and take the next step by providing a local judge.”
“Sheriff Hall and our entire law enforcement community have made our city safer, and they’ve done it with transparency and integrity,” said Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper. “I am proud of their efforts. I’m also proud to join the Sheriff, as well as immigrant rights advocates, to call for a federal immigration judge in Nashville. The numbers demonstrate that this 287(g) enforcement program has been an overwhelming success, but in order to make it run promptly, efficiently and fairly, the federal government should grant us a local immigration judge. The volume of cases is just too large to ignore.”
"The impact of the 287(g) program in Davidson County reinforces the reality of the immigration crisis in this country,” Rep. Blackburn said. “It is a reality that Tennesseans understand but the Federal government has been slow to recognize. Every state is now a border state, every town a border town. I congratulate the Davidson County Sheriff's Department on their extraordinary work. It is time to take their efforts to the next level with the installation of an immigration judge in Davidson County."
In January 2007, Davidson County became one of the nation’s first municipalities to be approved for participation in the 287(g) program. Final approval was granted during a meeting of Tennessee congressional lawmakers, federal officials and Davidson County law enforcement agents held in Alexander’s Washington office on January 31, 2007.
In the first year of implementation, Davidson County law enforcement has:
• Received valuable training and resources from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that empowered local officials to conduct immigration checks.
• Set approximately 3,000 illegal immigrants for removal.
o Davidson County has processed the largest numbers of cases for removal east of Arizona, more than any other county in a non-border state.
o Only four other counties in the country processed more illegal immigrants than Davidson County during their first year in the program.
• Removed nearly 50 gang members from the streets of Davidson County.
o Close to 700 – or nearly 25 percent – of the illegal immigrants processed have been arrested for at least one serious crime such as homicide, robbery, aggravated assault and burglary.
Currently, all persons processed under 287(g) in Nashville must report to Memphis or Oakdale, Louisiana, for an immigration hearing. Alexander, Cooper and Blackburn said additional costs for this transportation out of Nashville could be avoided if a federal immigration judge were located in the city.
On March 6th, Senator Alexander and Representative Cooper sent a letter to Julie L. Myers, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for ICE, requesting the installation of an immigration judge in Nashville. Having an immigration judge in Nashville would expedite the process and ease the current logjam in the courts.
Other attendees at today’s event included Nashville Mayor Karl Dean; Sheriff Daron Hall, Chief Ronal Serpas and Special Agent Mike Holt of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office; and immigration attorney Elliot Ozment.