Updated: Jun 21, 2022
From the letter:
The undersigned include law professors, lawyers, law students, and representatives accredited by the U.S. Department of Justice. We urge you to put an end to the unlawful 287(g) agreement between the Knox County Sheriff and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”). As we will explain, the 287(g) agreement does not comply with Tennessee law and needlessly exposes the County and its residents to a risk of liability.
The Knox County Sheriff entered into the 287(g) agreement with ICE without the approval of the Knox County Commission, which is required by Tennessee law. In 2007, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted a statute requiring “approval by the governing legislative body” of the county before a sheriff “may enter into a written agreement” with ICE “concerning the enforcement of federal immigration laws ….” The statute, Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-1-101(a), was in effect when the current 287(g) agreement between the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and ICE was signed in May 2020, and it remains in effect today. Because the Sheriff did not obtain the approval of the Knox County Commission before entering into the 287(g) agreement with ICE, the agreement is unlawful.
In statements to the media, attorneys for the Sheriff and the County have suggested that Commission approval was not required because the 287(g) agreement is limited to “jail enforcement” and does not involve the enforcement of federal immigration law. That contention is without merit. By its express terms, the 287(g) agreement authorizes the Knox County Sheriff’s Office “to perform certain immigration enforcement functions.” These include interrogating detainees about their immigration status, processing noncitizens for immigration violations, and preparing documents used to initiate deportation proceedings. All these functions concern the enforcement of federal immigration law, regardless of whether they occur in a jail or anywhere else.
The detention of individuals pursuant to an unlawful 287(g) agreement creates an ongoing risk of liability. And if any conduct by Knox County officials or law enforcement officers gives rise to liability, the people of Knox County will bear the cost.
Proponents of the 287(g) initiative have argued that the agreement is appropriate to ensure that immigrants follow the law. We ask that you hold yourselves and the Sheriff to the same standard by putting an end to the unlawful 287(g) agreement.