TN Supreme Court hears arguments in suit targeting DCSO participation in 287(g) program

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 6:28pm

After navigating the court system for roughly a year and a half, the Tennessee Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon heard arguments in a lawsuit targeting the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office’s participation in the federal 287(g) immigration enforcement program.

The main issue revolves around DCSO’s memorandum of agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which allows sheriff employees to double as federal agents. The agreement allows the DCSO to hand over illegal immigrants to ICE for possible deportation.

The plaintiffs argue that the sheriff’s office is overstepping their role solely as jail operators by contracting with ICE, a law enforcement agency.

Tennessee’s five Supreme Court justices interjected questions during each side’s 30-minute arguments inside a packed courtroom.

Attorney Bill Harbison, representing the plaintiffs, based his argument on the Metro Charter, which calls the Metro Nashville Police Department the sole “conservator of peace.” The charter, established in 1963, states that the DCSO is specifically the operator of the jail.

DCSO does have rights to conduct police-like duties, Harbison said, as long as it is “necessary and incidental” to the operation of the jail. Harbison compared the sheriff’s office checking and enforcing for immigration status to inquiring about inmates’ federal tax status — a move he said would surely be outlawed by the Metro Charter.

Metro attorney Keli Oliver countered Harbison’s argument by claiming that the immigration status of inmates is directly related to the operation of the jail. She compared the immigration check to checking if an inmate has a warrant out in another jurisdiction.

The DCSO agrees that the charter prevents them from enforcing state and local laws, Oliver said, but it doesn’t address or prohibit enforcement of federal law. The sheriff’s office employees who are trained as federal agents also only operate within the confines of the jail, meaning they don’t infringe upon MNPD’s duty, Oliver said.

During rebuttal, Harbison called the contract between DCSO and ICE a “while we’re at it” policy that, despite Metro Council approval, is unenforceable. He said the Metro charter, which can only be changed by a citywide referendum, should serve as the integral piece of evidence.

“People adopted this process and placed those powers where they want them to be,” Harbison said. A ruling that allowed Metro agencies to work around the charter with federal agencies could create a “slippery slope” effect, according to Harbison.

Earlier in the day, the Migrant Women’s Committee, opposers of 287(g), gathered at the Downtown Presbyterian Church to rally before the hearings. Juana Villegas, who gained notoriety for being shackled by DCSO while in labor four years ago, spoke at the meeting. She said she was treated “as if I were not a human being.”

Protesters marched to the Tennessee Supreme Court building for the hearings.

11 Comments on this post:

By: nashmusic2244 on 6/14/12 at 7:37

The TN SC must uphold the agreement of DCSO and DHS/ICE as it is proper to screen inmates of any color, race, ethnicity as to their status in the USA. This illegal is merely an illegal trespasser and illegal driver in TN and after more US dollars who should be deported immediately and demanded to reimburse the state of TN and the US government.

By: govskeptic on 6/15/12 at 5:24

This program is located exactly where it should be! The Sheriff's Dept employees
arrest no one! Once in custody for other charges is when these checks are made.
The Plaintiff's want to argue that it should be with the Police Dept! Why, because
they know the Police are actually too busy to fool with much of this, and that
given a little pressure this Mayor will order them not to bother with status checks!
If our Tenn Supreme Court rules otherwise it's based on liberal politics not Law!

By: yogiman on 6/15/12 at 6:13

The sheriff's department gave up the superior legality in law enforcement when the Metro government took hold.

But the fact they are only in charge of the jails, who else should be in charge of the inmates?

The Metro police have enough on their hands, they don't need more unless it's an ego mater.

By: on 6/15/12 at 7:08

Maybe the Sheriff's Office wouldn't need extra money if they stopped trying to enforce federal immigration law. Shrink the Sheriff''s office and let the Metro Police do the job.

By: jonw on 6/15/12 at 8:36


To: on 6/15/12 at 8:08
Somebody needs to do it. Obozo's Justice Dept sure won't do it.

By: Shadow63 on 6/15/12 at 11:14

They check their mouth, rectum, and genitals, I see no reason they can't ask where they're from.

By: nashtnman on 6/15/12 at 11:31

What is wrong with people? Illegal is illegal. There are correct ways to live and work in this country and if we just blindly look the other way for this what makes you think illegal immigrants will pay attention to any other law? I have been hit in my car twice by hispanic drivers, once a hit and run and the second time by an illegal immigrant without insurance. Ever try to sue an illegal immigrant over a traffic accident, you can't unless he is in custody. An illegal immigrant that spoke almost no english, with a state issued drivers license and no insurance with a valid tag. Thats the federal government not doing its job, the state not doing its job and an insurance company not doing their job by reporting an insurance non-renewal. I am sick of this shit. Everyone in this country wants to cry "oh don't punish them but yes it is illegal but we don't want to uphold that law! There're not really criminals." They are draining our social services and demanding rights while being a wanted criminal. Wake up morons!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

By: mg357 on 6/15/12 at 11:33

mg357...Juana Villegas was originally ordered deported in California by court order. She re-entered the US 7 days later and has been here ever since. By legal definition, she is a felon. My question is why is she still here. She won a $250 K settlement from a Nashville jury last year which is now on appeal. She won't get one thin dime. Obama is about to give back door amnesty to some 800,000 more illegals in a shoddy attempt to get re-elected with the hispanic vote. Rational thinking would dictate cannot pit the legal citizens of this country against law breakers and expect a good outcome. It isn't going to happen. The taxpayers are fed up trying to support their own families and these illegal

By: Moonglow1 on 6/18/12 at 5:33

Moonglow1: The Sheriff has grabbed power and money for his dept in advance of his future run for mayor. This issue is his opportunity to shine. Problem is: his office does not have the authority nor should deputies be deemed "federal agents. ". What a crock. The only role the Sheriff legally has by law is to run the jail. So run it! Seems to me there have been many issues lately concerning the jail (inmate deaths, lawsuits). Sheriff do your job!

By: Moonglow1 on 6/18/12 at 5:42

Moonglow1: for those of you ill informed about immigration law, currently the Sheriff picks up the illegals and halls them out to ICE whereupon the tax payer pays until they have a court hearing. Unless the illegal has committed a crime, the Sheriff is only a "transportation vehicle. "
The Sheriff is taking on this issue as a path to be elected mayor. And his budget needs to decrease. He knows nothing about federal law. We are paying him to run the jail in Davidson County.

By: Vuenbelvue on 6/18/12 at 2:03

From Reuters News 6-18-12 Israel deports plane loads of Sudanese who came across the porus border with Egypt claiming they are job seekers and not refuges

"South Sudanese refugee Samuel Akue carries suitcases he purchased in a market south Tel Aviv in preparation for his deportation from Israel June 11, 2012. Israel deported a planeload of migrants to South Sudan early on Monday, the first of a series of weekly repatriation flights intended as a stepping stone to dealing with much greater influxes of migrants from Sudan and Eritrea. About 60,000 Africans have crossed into Israel across its porous border with Egypt in recent years. Israel says the vast majority are job seekers, disputing arguments by humanitarian agencies that they should be considered for asylum."