Knox Co. sheriff talks to immigration rights advocates

Knox Co. sheriff talks to immigration rights advocates about controversial program

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Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "JJ" Jones listens as immigration advocates state their opinions about 287(g). Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "JJ" Jones listens as immigration advocates state their opinions about 287(g).
About 100 immigration advocates attended the meeting Tuesday in Knox County Health Department's auditorium. About 100 immigration advocates attended the meeting Tuesday in Knox County Health Department's auditorium.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "JJ" Jones held a meeting Tuesday night to discuss the department's possible participation in a controversial immigration program.

Immigration rights groups attended the meeting to convince the sheriff not to sign a memorandum of understanding with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The agreement would allow the sheriff's department to participate in a program called 287(g), which would train deputies to enforce immigration laws. It would allow deputies to scrutinize the immigration status of people arrested and held in jail.

Immigration rights advocates say the program has caused problems where it has been implemented.

"There's also a serious problem with local law enforcement developing trust with the community. If people are afraid to report crimes because they know [officers] are then going to start questioning their own status, they're not going to report crimes," said De Ann Pendry, who is a volunteer for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition and Allies of Knoxville's Immigrant Neighbors.

In addition to trust issues, Pendry said 287(g) causes problems with due process and racial profiling.

Jones said a final decision on his department's participation in 287(g) will be made soon.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's website says officers from 39 departments in 19 states have been trained under the 287(g) agreement.

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