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State sheriffs watching Hall’s immigration push
By Jared Allen,
September 18, 2006

From Memphis to Knoxville, Tennessee county sheriffs are intently watching as Davidson County seeks to become only the fourth county nationwide to be able to act as its own enforcer of federal immigration laws.

On Aug. 15, Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall formally requested that his office be allowed to take part in a federal initiative called the Delegation of Authority Program, otherwise known as section 287 (g) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1996.

287 (g) would give the Sheriff’s Office the ability and authority to immediately screen all arrestees for immigration violations, and begin deportation proceedings without having to wait for intervention by the federal government. When Hall formally announced Nashville’s intention to receive immigration technology and authorization from the federal government, he was joined by Gov. Phil

Bredesen, who encouraged all Tennessee counties to see if such a program would suit their needs as well.

Since the announcement, a number of Hall’s state-wide colleagues have begun to do just that, educating themselves about the program, many of those sheriffs said in interviews last week.

While most sheriffs remain in a wait-and-see mode, officials with at least two sheriff’s offices in Middle Tennessee said they hope to follow in Davidson County’s footsteps as soon as possible.
“I’ve already put a couple of my people into researching how we might do it, even on a smaller scale,” said Wilson County’s Terry Ashe, who oversees the jail in a county one-fifth the size of Metro Nashville.

“We have a number of illegal immigrants who have committed crimes here. I’m all for the people who are doing the right thing. But if you’re committing crimes and you’re not here legally, there ought to be some measures to deport you,” Ashe said. “I’m going to watch how Hall pursues it and, if it works, we’re going to pursue the same avenue.”

Williamson County is also eager to follow Davidson County’s lead.

“I’m all for it,” Williamson County Chief Deputy Sheriff Dusty Rhoades said. “When we do things, we want to make sure we’re doing them right, so we’ll kind of wait and see how they do and we’ll go from there.”

Farther from Nashville, most sheriffs contacted for this story expressed a greater degree of caution or uncertainty, some saying they had only heard media reports about the program.

Mark Luttrell Jr., sheriff of Shelby County, said through a spokesperson he was unaware of the program. The spokesperson added that a thorough legal review would be necessary before the sheriff could comment further on the merits of 287 (g).

Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long was just sworn into office on Sept. 1, and members of the sheriff’s staff have been focused only on transitioning into office, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Officer Ron Rice said.

And the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association is only now learning about the program, as well.
“We have not looked into it, but we will be looking into it,” said Robertson County Sheriff Gene Bollinger, who is the current president of the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association. “If it works there, there’s no reason we can’t piggy back off of [Hall].”
Whether or not Davidson County becomes just the first of many Tennessee counties to essentially serve as its own immigration department remains to be seen.

But a source close to the ongoing discussions between Hall’s office and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office responsible for granting Hall’s application said applications from counties across the United States have begun to pile up in Washington, D.C. Davidson County is currently in a mandatory 30-day assessment period, which the Department of Homeland Security imposed upon its receipt of Hall’s letter on Aug. 31.

Eager to streamline Davidson County’s entry into the program, Hall has said he will call the Department of Homeland Security “on day 31.”
And if Davidson County receives quick approval, that would only shorten the time frame by which other Tennessee sheriffs “wait and see.”

“I think Davidson County opened the door for a lot of sheriff’s offices to start doing this,” Williamson County’s Rhoades said. “I think we’ll see a lot of people getting on board because we all recognize that it’s a growing problem.”