KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A woman is suing Knox County, Sheriff Tom Spangler, and Mayor Glenn Jacobs for $2.5 million for racial discrimination.

She says she was racially discriminated against, something she claims is tied to KCSO’s involvement in the controversial 287(g) program. Maria Oviedo-Granados is not a U.S. citizen, but she says she does have a work permit and a government-issued Social Security number.

Oviedo-Granados says she called 911 for protection from a domestic abuser. Instead of being helped, she was arrested for simple assault, kept in federal prison for more than a month, and the deputies who arrested her did not try to use a translation service, according to the lawsuit.

The 287(g) program has drawn criticism in the past, but as recently as 2020, Sheriff Spangler defended the program, saying people who don’t break the law have nothing to worry about.

The program was first signed by former Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones. The program gives local authorities access to records to see if a person under arrest is facing immigration enforcement. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says this is only after they’ve been arrested at the state or local level.

Knox County’s participation has brought protests in the past as well as a lawsuit over access to public records requests regarding the program.

In the past, Spangler said his deputies aren’t targeting people due to their immigration status.

“I get very personal about this,” Spangler said. “It really bothers me: Don’t commit a crime you don’t have to worry about us. We’re not knocking on doors. We’re not going out here looking for people. I’m not going out here to sites looking for people that look different because they think that I’m coming after them because they’re here illegally.”

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