Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall makes his case for posting a federal immigration judge in Nashville.
Sheriff Hall says that Metro must currently bus illegal immigrants to Alabama or Memphis.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A controversial immigration enforcement program has been around for one year, and on Monday Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall said there has been major progress. At the same time others believe that this program violated the civil rights of a number of people.
Few cities in teh country have it. Now Nashville does. Its called the 287-G program.
"It allows officers who are trained to work in the jails to now screen all of the arrestees on their immigration status," says Sheriff Hall.
Before the program started 150 criminals were flagged as being in the United States illegally. After 287-G was implemented that number jumped to 3,000 in one year.
"All of these individuals were first arrested for a crime, brought to jail, and then screened, and determined to be here illegally," says Sheriff Hall.
"About one-fourth, or over 600 people have prior arrest histories for crimes such as homicide, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, drugs, or weapons," says Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas.
Despite the high numbers, there have been growing pains with the one-year old program. Some believe logistical issues are violating some people's civil rights.
"When a person is arrested for a crime, they have the right to an immediate bond hearing in front of a magistrate downtown," says immigration attorney Elliott Ozment.
With 287-G, the bond hearing doesn't always happen for illegal immigrants. Many are sent to Louisiana to face an immigration judge or bused to Memphis.
"They are detained sometimes as long as six weeks, before they get a bond hearing, that has to stop," says Ozment.
Sheriff Hall says Metro has a solution.
"Nashville needs an immigration judge," he says.
Sheriff Hall also said he believes an immigration judge in Nashville could expedite cases, cut down on delays in court proceedings and reduce federal transportation costs.
Federal lawmakers are now getting involved in that fight.
"It makes no sense to taxpayers to take 3,000 people, and send almost all of them to Oakdate, Alabama, which is a 26-hour bus ride - some of them are housed in Perry, Alabama - and bring all of them back here," says Sen. Lamar Alexander.
Hall fought a lot of federal beaurocracy to get the 287-G program to Nashville, and it should be an equally tough fight to get an immigration judge here. Currently, there is no timeline on when that could become a reality.
Lawmakers like Lamar Alexander, Marsha Blackburn and Jim Cooper continue to work in Washington to make it happen.