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Tennessee governor signs immigration bill requiring police to check status of arrestees

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen (D) [official website] on Monday signed an immigration bill [SB 1141/HB 670 text, PDF] into law that will require police to check the legal status of people who have been arrested and report those who are in the US illegally. The law was created to combat illegal immigration [JURIST news archive] in Tennessee and enhance communication with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement [official website]. Bredesen hopes passing the bill will make illegal immigration a prominent issue in the upcoming gubernatorial elections, from which he is legally barred from seeking a third term. Bredesen told reporters that he did not like what the law symbolized but found that the bill was not unreasonable. The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition [advocacy website] chided Bredesen for "declin[ing] to show leadership" by vetoing the bill. The coalition claims that Tennessee police officers lack the specialized training and oversight to properly implement the law and that it will allow officers to "treat foreign national or non-white resident with heightened suspicion." Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam (R), who will be running the upcoming gubernatorial elections, praised the signing, stating that "states must step up and address the issue of illegal immigration, because it's clear the federal government has failed to do its part." The law is set to go into effect in January 2011.

Several state and local governments have been passing immigration legislation, as the federal government has been unable to create a solution on the national level. Last week, the voters of Fremont, Nebraska [official website] passed [JURIST report] an ordinance [No 5165 text, PDF] banning the hiring, harboring or renting property to illegal immigrants. The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska [advocacy website] has promised to challenge the ordinance in court [press release], describing the law as "un-American and unconstitutional" and arguing that the ordinance will "cause discrimination and racial profiling against Latinos and others who appear to be foreign born, including U.S. citizens." In April, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) [official website] signed into law [JURIST report] a controversial bill [SB1070 materials] that would require any individual suspected of being an illegal immigrant to present valid identification to law enforcement officials. Brewer is currently facing federal lawsuits filed by the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, several Tuscon police officers and a class action [JURIST reports] led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website]. US President Barack Obama has also criticized the law [JURIST report] and plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of the federal government. The Mexican government has also spoken out against the law and filed an amicus curiae brief [JURIST reports] last week in support of the ACLU lawsuit.

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