“Demanding Public Safety, Accountability and Opportunity”

Immigration Policy Paper

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 nonHispanic 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 Spanishspeaking 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 foreignborn 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.