State Lawmakers Plan To File Immigration Reform Bill
by Scott Arnold
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Is fighting the problem of illegal immigration a Federal Government issue, or one for Tennessee lawmakers?
It turns out some local legislators are not waiting around for the answer to that question. They plan to file a bill this week that mirrors some of the most controversial immigration laws in the country.
A key question is whether cops should be allowed to check the immigration status of the people they pull over. In Arizona, the answer yes and it's the main of a controversial immigration law passed in April.
It is a law that State Senator Bill Ketron is trying to pass in Tennessee.
"Illegal means illegal and all of us down here at the general assembly took an oath to uphold the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Tennessee," Ketron said.
Some believe that such a new law could lead to racial profiling, a claim Ketron denies.
"Why should we turn a blind eye to those who are breaking the law, it creates issues for me," added Ketron.
It also creates issues for Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.
"I just think it's incumbent upon me as a mayor to say, this discussion ought to include the economic consequences of whatever actions may be taken," said Dean.
It's already estimated Arizona's new law cost the state $140 million in lost tourism and business revenue
Another question is whether the state get involved in an issue the feds are already fighting.
"It is in my mind a federal issue, that the federal government should be solving, and they have not done it for years, and I would hate to see the city of Nashville, or the state of Tennessee, receive further burdens on already limited resources to do what the federal government should be doing," said Dean.
If Tennessee does take on the immigration fight, it could cost the state more. But Senator Ketron said Tennessee could end up saving in the end. With fewer illegal immigrants, Ketron says the state won't pay as much for their education or healthcare.
"These are definitely issues we are going to have to work through as we pass this piece of legislation," said Ketron.
The federal government has filed a lawsuit against the Arizona legislation. A judge has recently dismissed some parts of the complaint, but other pieces of legislation are being debated in the Supreme Court. One example is Arizona's mandate that businesses check their employees immigration status, through a federal database.
That is one part of the Arizona law that State Senator Bill Ketron removed from the Tennessee version.
A Supreme Court ruling is expected to come this summer.
Along with jobs and the economy in Tennessee, immigration reform will be one of the main Republican priorities when the legislative session starts up in January.