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VOL. 35 | NO. 6 | Friday, February 11, 2011




Immigration enforcement bill brings lawsuit threat

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Republican state Rep. Joe Carr introduced a bill Wednesday empowering local law enforcement officers to ask suspects whether they are legally in the country, a proposal that immediately prompted the threat of a lawsuit.

A similar measure that formed part of Arizona's toughest-in-the-nation immigration law that passed last year is currently the subject of a federal suit.

Carr, from Lascassas, and Senate sponsor Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, would not say specifically how their legislation differed from the enforcement measure in the Arizona bill. They did say they believed their bill would survive a court challenge.

That may be put to the test. American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee executive director Hedy Weinberg said afterward that the group would pursue litigation if the bill passed unchanged.

"It invites racial profiling, hinders public safety and betrays core American values of equality and fairness," she said.

Ketron said in the news conference that "profiling is not acceptable."

He said law enforcement officers would have to follow criteria establishing when it was reasonable to question suspects about whether they are legally in the country. He would not say what the criteria are. They are not spelled out in the bill itself.

Carr, who heads a House committee on illegal immigration, also filed on Wednesday a bill to require employers to use the federal E-verify program to see if employees are legally able to work in the U.S. and a bill to require state agencies to verify that applicants for benefits are legally in the country.

He said the bills were necessary to prevent illegal immigrants from coming to Tennessee as other states enact tough immigration laws.

According to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures, states passed 346 immigration-related laws and resolutions last year — a record number. Six states introduced bills similar to Arizona's, but none of them were enacted. So far this year, 11 states have introduced Arizona-style bills.

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