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Immigration Policy Paper

“Demanding Public Safety, Accountability and


Opportunity”

David Briley
Candidate for Mayor
Nashville-Davidson County
July 2007
Overview

Today, like many cities across America, Nashville faces the challenge of
exploding populations. Meanwhile, the federal government seems to
be in a state of partisan paralysis on issues that we expect them to
address. The day-to-day consequences of this paralysis, in areas such
as the environment, education, energy independence or immigration,
strike us on the local level. Nashville simply can’t wait on the federal
government to take action. We must become creative in finding
solutions. “It’s innovation by necessity” as the former mayor of
Indianapolis has said.

Today 1 of every 8 Nashville residents is foreign-born. That diversity is


a strength. It also offers new challenges that we can’t simply sweep
under the rug and, frankly, opportunities that we cannot pass up. It
raises one of the oldest issues facing local governments: How do we
treat new neighbors and what do we expect of them as members of
our community? While we may speak different languages, our goals
are the same. All parents, no matter where they were born, seek the
same for their children here in Nashville – good schools, a safe
community and a better future. Of course immigration policy is a
federal issue, but immigrants are not.

We have a clear choice in dealing with the reality of immigration and


an increasingly diverse community. Will we simply show disdain and
ignore immigrants with tactics of division and exclusion? Or, will we
work together to build a community of acceptance and appreciation for
our differences and our laws. When I am Mayor, we will go the way of
community and diverse leadership, not the divisive way of Washington.

We will attack the local challenges of immigration, but not without the
resourceful support of leaders from all backgrounds. We will increase
enforcement of our criminal laws, but not without increasing our efforts
at education and awareness in the communities that most need it. We
will demand accountability from everyone who decides to live here, but
not without giving them a fair chance to feel wholly Nashvillian. We will
speak against illegal immigration by enforcing 287(g), but we will
speak just as loudly for all the positive contributions of Nashville’s
astounding immigrant community that help make this city such a
great, vibrant place to live.

Addressing this important issue will require a two-fold approach. On


one hand we must enforce our safety laws to the greatest extent
possible. On the other hand, we must demand full acceptance of
foreign-born residents playing by the rules to create a Nashville full of
promise and hope for all of us.
Demanding Public Safety, Accountability and
Opportunity

Increase Drunk-Driving-Related Measures – After the tragic death


of Jocelyn Gardiner, the Nashville City Paper quoted a prominent
Hispanic leader and the head of Tennessee’s Mothers Against Drunk
Driving discussing the disheartening gap between Hispanic and non-
Hispanic populations when it comes to awareness and respect for our
drunk-driving laws. Recent studies have demonstrated this statistically
in other states, but our own horror stories as a city over the past year
show us this reality in all-too-graphic detail.

Drunk driving is a public menace that simply must not be tolerated. As


a city we will not respond in a racist way – that is not who we are. But
we can and we should increase education and enforcement in areas
that demonstrate the most need. This is not about legal vs. illegal
residents. This is about the safety of all of us. The following steps will
increase the education and enforcement of existing laws in support of
the public safety of the entire Nashville community, immigrant and
non-immigrant alike:

 Increase DUI stops at the busiest DUI locations.


 Increase enforcement of existing laws that prohibit the sale of
beer or alcohol to already-intoxicated persons.
 Increase enforcement of underage drinking laws.
 Close the loopholes that allow after-hours clubs to stay open and
serve alcohol after 3 a.m.
 Partner with Tennessee’s MADD organization and local Hispanic
advocacy groups to increase Spanish-language alcohol
education, and drunk-driving awareness public service
campaigns.

Enforcing, Supporting and Improving 287(g)


The 287(g) law permits agreements with the federal government to
permit certain local officials to perform limited immigration functions.
The program subjects individuals who are incarcerated for committing
crimes to instant immigration background checks and identifies illegal
immigrants for deportation proceedings.

The 287(g) partnership adopted earlier this year with Sheriff Hall would
likely have kept Victor Benitez off of our streets had it been in place
earlier. Under federal law, 287(g) is one of the only ways we can
enforce federal immigration laws. Sadly, the failures of Washington, DC
demand this kind of action by our Sheriff using local tax dollars. But if
we are going to do the federal government’s job for them, they need to
meet us halfway by fixing the errors in the system, providing a local
immigration office and providing swift responses when the Sheriff’s
office sends an inquiry about an arrestee.

Local taxpayers are bearing the burden of this federal responsibility,


and we should demand the full use of federal facilities and resources
pursuant to the 287(g) law. We should offer Sheriff Hall all the
resources he needs to continue to implement this program
successfully. We should assist in improving the 287(g) program.
Where possible, we should partner with the federal government to
track down offenders who skip out on their 287(g) hearing, and
revisiting the terms of the MOA if necessary.

Sharing 287(g) Information with Local Courts


As we now know from General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland, he
would never have granted Mr. Benitez probation for prior burglary
charges had he known of the offender’s illegal immigrant status. We
must require officers from the Sheriff’s department to share valuable
287(g) information with prosecutors and judges where appropriate. To
the extent judges are permitted to consider such information, they
should do so.

Working to add Immigration Office in Nashville


Immigrants who face 287(g) and other INS hearing are currently
required to travel to Memphis, the closest Immigration Office. Lawful
immigrants who inevitably face bureaucratic nightmares, mistakes and
constant delays from federal immigration officials to obtain simple
documentation should not be forced to travel more than six hours to
handle matters in Memphis. With 12% of our residents foreign-born, we
need and deserve an Office in Nashville to serve the needs of our
immigrant communities. This will relieve the backlog that plagues the
Memphis office, and will increase the chances Nashville’s immigrants
will actually attend required hearings.

Zero Tolerance for Employers who hire illegal immigrants


The incentives that make Nashville a destination of illegal immigration
will diminish once the jobs that enable them dry up. The city should do
everything in its power - from threatening local licenses to rescinding
government contracts - to punish employers who knowingly offer jobs
to illegal residents. Tolerating this practice damages our community
and wrongfully undermines lawful job-seeking immigrants who took the
time to play by the rules.

Law Enforcement Cooperation


Our law enforcement policies and prosecutorial practices must
encourage immigrants to assist the Police in solving serious crimes.
Immigrants should not be reluctant to report crimes and be material
witnesses in prosecutions out of fear of having their immigration status
scrutinized or being separated from their families. Our community is
better off when residents feel safe to report crimes and cooperate with
authorities. But the flip-side is an obligation for residents to cooperate
when they have knowledge of a crime.

BEP Funding and English-Language Learners


As Mayor, I will make sure we maximize state education funds. An
increase in BEP funding will go a long way in addressing a key
challenge of our immigration boom. Nashville’s growing foreign-born
population makes English-language learners an increasing education
priority - and for good reason. English fluency is necessary to fully
integrate in the community. It increases education and job
opportunities, and decreases the chance of dropping out of school. But
English doesn’t teach itself. We need more teachers, more educational
resources, and more attention to building diverse public school
communities. This is important not just to incorporate Spanish-
speaking children into our school system, but to help all our students
learn each other’s respective languages, and come to respect each
other’s differences.

The divisive approach to language barriers is the “English-only”


philosophy, isolating and penalizing immigrant communities. The
community approach, on the other hand, enables us to learn language
from each other and explore different cultures.

Financial Independence and Access


When residents are denied access to bank accounts, they become
sitting ducks for theft-related crimes. The city should partner with the
Hispanic Chamber and other immigrant advocates to educate foreign-
born residents about banking options, and to encourage local banks to
work with immigrant residents, who are often unsure they qualify for
bank accounts when in fact they do. The Treasury Department – in it’s
post-September 11 report - actively encourages that all foreign-born
residents be integrated into our mainstream financial service systems,
not denied access. Encouraging local banking is a win-win. It’s good for
the banking business, and it removes a common target of crime.

Also, we must support and encourage entrepreneurship among our


local immigrant population. This is one more area we can boost the
work of the Division of Minority and Small Business Assistance within
the Department of Finance.

Spanish-Language Review of Essential Government Documents


Some communications between the city government and residents are
too important for language-based politics. Nashville should undertake a
review of all essential documents relating to citizen safety and
responsibility – and ensure that a Spanish-language version is
available, and that they are getting to the right communities.

Community Roundtable on Diversity


Unless we take real action in enforcing public safety around issues of
illegal immigration – and unless we offer real tangible changes to
increase the safety, education and opportunity of our growing
immigration population, we have failed in our responsibility to build a
great community in our diversity. All the laws in the world, however,
won’t help us grow together if we do not talk to each other. As Mayor, I
will hold roundtables around the city designed to grow new lines of
communication across ethnic and racial lines. We should explore these
concrete proposals and others together. Everyone would have a seat
at this table, except those who would divide us, those who reject the
goals of inclusion, acceptance and diversity.