Lawsuit Challenges Legality of Sheriff Hall's 287(g) Program

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Immigration attorney Elliott Ozment filed a lawsuit in Chancery Court Friday afternoon that aims to dismantle the Davidson County Sheriff's 287(g) agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — an agreement that allows designated deputies to screen anyone in Sheriff Daron Hall's jails for immigration violations.

In his filing, Ozment alleges the Metropolitan Charter of Nashville and Davidson County and a Tennessee Supreme Court opinion have stripped the Davidson County Sheriff of his police powers. By enforcing federal immigration law, Ozment argues, his office is violating both the Charter and a provision of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which says 287(g) powers may only be carried out if they are "consistent with state and local law."

The plaintiff in this case is a 19-year-old U.S. citizen named Daniel Renteria-Villegas, who was arrested for allegedly firing a gun near El Coyote on Glenrose — a charge which was subsequently struck down by a judge. Nevertheless, he was processed through 287(g), Ozment alleges, because of his brown skin, poor English and because the arresting officer recorded his birthplace as Mexico, despite the fact that Renteria was born in Portland, Ore. The Metro Police officer who arrested him, Rickey Bearden, Sheriff Daron Hall and Metro Nashville government are named in the complaint.

Davidson County's program and the 287(g) program at large have come under fire from advocates, the Government Accountability Office and the Homeland Security Office of Inspector General for processing undocumented immigrants brought in on petty charges. ICE's stated goals are to use the program to remove only dangerous criminals.

For an in-depth examination of Ozment's argument and Sheriff Daron Hall's 287(g) program, watch for next week's Scene, due out Jan. 13.

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