In the contentious election year that was 2018, the Tennessee GOP made illegal immigration a prominent talking point both in the General Assembly and in various political campaigns. Concern that the state's two major urban areas, Memphis and Nashville, could shelter undocumented families from President Trump's promised crackdown led Republicans to craft legislation that would ban so-called "sanctuary cities" and force local law enforcement to work more collaboratively with ICE.
But as Commercial Appeal investigative reporter Daniel Connolly tells WKNO, the final legislation was significantly watered down as questions of constitutionality arose. "The bill was severely limited from what it originally was," he says. "Originally, it was supposed to turn every police agency (into) enforcing immigration law. The final version is they can if they want to, but they don't have to."
This has led to recent pushback from the Shelby County Attorney, who advised the Sheriff's Office that "the new Tennessee laws governing sanctuary cities/policies do not apply to Shelby County."
On a state level, education officials sent out a reminder that schools are not in the business of enforcing immigration laws.
Connolly talks with WKNO about what the law does and doesn't do, and why Shelby County's Hispanic community is still trying to understand its possible repercussions.