Tennessee to Foreign Visitors: Should You Stay or Should You Go?

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The House Judiciary Subcommittee today will be considering a bill that makes driving an undocumented immigrant passenger a felony. How someone driving a car, cab, church van, limo, or horse-drawn carriage is supposed to tell if their passengers are here legally, I'm not really sure. Will all drivers have access to ICE-led training sessions that allow us to identify proper documentation when we see it?

In a press release, Stephen Fotopulos, executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, says, "The last thing we want is to put Tennessee on a black list of states that treat all immigrants and international visitors with suspicion. If our legislators continue down this road, they’ll be steering our state into an economic ditch."

Did he say "international visitors?" Oh, yeah. Turns out that at the same time the state legislature is considering turning us all into immigration officers, state and local tourism officials are all excited about new efforts to lure foreign visitors to Nashville. From The Tennessean:

International tourists like the Clearys helped the hall set an attendance record of 507,510 last year, but they remain a rare sight in Nashville and Tennessee overall.

Now, local, state, regional and national tourism officials — with an assist from President Barack Obama — are embarking on efforts to lure more foreign tourists, especially from fast-growing countries such as Brazil, China and India.

But HB2191 says you can't transport anyone you "know or reasonably should know is an illegal alien."

Gosh, but how should we reasonably know someone is an illegal alien? Funny names? Funny ways of speaking? Paperwork that we don't know how to verify?

Since it's a felony and they'll take your vehicle, it's best to just not give a ride to any foreigners — which is going to make it very, very difficult for those foreign tourists we're courting to get from the airport to our tourist destinations.

I hope the tourism folks are helping the House Judiciary committee shape this legislation. If we're devising a tagline to invite visitors from other countries to spend money in Tennessee, I don't think "You look foreign — I can't risk giving you a ride to the Ryman" is gonna cut it.

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