NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – While the term “sanctuary city” is never mentioned in the bill’s language, Metro council members voted on legislation that would align the city’s immigration policies with other so-called sanctuary cities.
The ordinance was approved on second reading Tuesday night with 25 yes votes, with 8 members voting against, and 4 abstaining.
Before the vote, hundreds of immigrant families and their allies gathered outside the council chambers to show their support for the ordinance. It was organized by the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC).
“There’s definitely a lot of Latinos in the community. It’s important for them to feel safe in the city that they’ve called home, and not feel a fear of their families being separated,” said supporter Jacky Gomez.
The legislation would restrict local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration officials, unless they can provide a warrant signed by a judge. The move aims to prevent federal immigration officers from taking custody of people with help from Metro police.
Councilman Colby Sledge, who represents parts of South Nashville and Midtown, says this bill is about drawing a bright line between local and federal law enforcement.
“We’ve been talking about ensuring that we’re not putting local tax dollars toward federal immigration enforcement,” said Sledge. “Now if we do have an issue where there’s a criminal warrant issued against someone who is in this country illegally, absolutely we cooperate. But we want to make sure that we’re creating a safe and welcoming environment for those who are just trying to do the right thing and just trying to get by.”
But Councilman Steve Glover, who represents part of Hermitage, says Metro should stay away from this kind of legislation. He points to his lapel pins as an example.
“If you look at what I’m wearing here, I’ve got the American Flag, the Tennessee flag above the Metro emblem. It’s because we take an oath on the Constitution of the United States and the State of Tennessee,” Glover said. “Therefore, we need to let the federal government handle these kinds of deals. It’s not our place, as a local city. And I don’t think we need to be sending out messages like, ‘Come to Nashville, where it is a sanctuary city. Even though they say that’s not what this bill does at all, I’m afraid that’s the way people will interpret it.”
The ordinance needs a third and final vote of approval before becoming law.