Tennessee Legislature approves bills to report on immigration, crime

Published 4:31 pm Thursday, May 2, 2024

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By Jon Styff

The Center Square

The Tennessee Legislature passed a pair of bills intended to fight illegal immigration in the state.

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The bill will require the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference to collect and compile the data on the costs related to illegal immigrants in the state who are charged or convicted of a criminal offense. The report will be sent to the governor and both the House and Senate speaker.

Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, said the bills will help the state sue the federal government over the costs of illegal immigration in Tennessee.

The fiscal note on House Bill 2774 is just below $370,000 annually after a previous version of the bill noted it would cost local governments more than $7 million annually to collect and report information. The bill was then amended to have the DAGC consult with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Department of Correction and other law enforcement agencies to compile the report.

Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, asked if the report did anything to support those coming into the country.

“That’s irrelevant and immaterial to this bill,” said Rep. Jake McCalmon, R-Franklin. “This is talking about folks who are currently sitting in our county jails and our prisons within the state to simply assess the cost that it’s costing Tennessee taxpayers.”

Pearson said he believes “we are failing to do anything substantive or substantial” to support those coming to Tennessee, saying non-citizens commit 30% less likely to be incarcerated than citizens, according to Stanford research.

The bill was amended to exclude data on those in the country using a proper passport.

Senate Bill 757 requires local law enforcement to verify the citizenship of a detainee and report the individual to the DAGC if found to be illegally in the country.

Those arrested will need to supply a Social Security card or number, a Tennessee drivers’ license or photo identification, a green card or student visa, a valid passport, United States birth certificate or a certificate of naturalization.

A stipulation was put into the law allowing law enforcement to judge if an individual is a homeless resident of the United States without proper documentation.