Knox County sheriff criticizes 287(g) denial

Knox County sheriff pledges to stack immigration violators 'like cordwood' in county jail after 287(g) denial

Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)

6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones issued a statement Wednesday criticizing the federal government's decision to deny the county's application for the 287(g) immigration program.

The agreement would have allowed 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.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement sent a letter to the sheriff's office within the past week, rejecting the application, and explaining it was denied because of resource concerns.

Sheriff Jones issued a statement Wednesday criticizing the government for the decision, and pledging to continue enforcing immigration laws:

"Once again, the federal government has used sequestration as a smokescreen to shirk its responsibilities for providing safety and security to its citizens by denying Knox County the 287(g) corrections model.  An inept administration is clearing the way for law breaking illegal immigrants to continue to thrive in our community and ultimately be allowed to reside in the United States.  Hopefully, the denial of this program will not create an influx of illegal immigrants who think that without this program they will be able to break the law and then be less likely to be deported.

The vast majority of Knox County citizens feel just as I do when it comes to the issue of illegal immigration.  I strongly support the 287(g) program and will continue to make every effort to pursue its implementation.   I will continue to enforce these federal immigration violations with or without the help of U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  If need be, I will stack these violators like cordwood in the Knox County Jail until the appropriate federal agency responds."

"That was so shocking to hear those words," member of Allies of Knoxville's Immigrant Neighbors Fran Ansley said. 

Ansley pointed out that she is speaking on her own behalf, not for the group.

"It also sounds like we have a law enforcement officer who's willing to violate constitutional rights of community members in order to make a political point," Ansley said.

Rev. John Gill is one of more than 50 clergymen who sent Jones a letter earlier this month expressing their disappointment in his support for 287(g).

"I feel that you want your sheriff to be a person that recognizes the humanity of all people but ultimately I don't think this is about the sheriff," Gill said. "I think it's about human beings."

A public meeting was held in Knox County in July, during which some residents complained that 287(g) causes trust problems between law enforcement and residents, as well as problems with due process and racial profiling.

The American Civil Liberties Union also issued a statement Wednesday, after having raised concerns about Knox County's 287(g) application to law enforcement and lawmakers in letters and testimony.

"We applaud ICE's decision to deny the Knox County Sheriff's 287(g) application.  287(g) programs encourage racial profiling and frequent deportations for misdemeanors, leading to an erosion of trust in law enforcement and undermining public safety, as we documented in our report on the Davidson County 287(g) program.  Keeping 287(g) out of Knoxville reinforces that all Knoxville residents must be treated fairly in the justice system, regardless of race or ethnicity," said Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee.

ACLU based its complaints on a report concerning Davidson County's 287(g) program, which accused the program of focusing on deporting immigrants without due process, making immigrants distrust law enforcement and become reluctant to report crimes.

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