Community groups oppose Knox County sheriff application to serve as immigration officers

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A push to allow Knox County deputies to also serve as immigration officers is getting some backlash.

When it became public that Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones submitted his first 287(g) application, the group Allies of Knoxville’s Immigrant Neighbors say they reached out with concerns in hopes of contacting the sheriff, but were unable to.

When WATE 6 On Your Side most recently reached out for an interview on this matter we were quickly informed it would be between three to four weeks until the sheriff would talk about this topic.

The 287(g) program is divided into three branches by which it can be implemented. The task force model is used on a day-to-day basis by deputies who encounter alleged non-citizens and can arrest them for violating federal immigration laws the jail enforcement model, also used by deputies, allows non-citizens to be interrogated and placed on immigration detainers.

Lastly, there’s one that combines the two the hybrid model.

In all but one of Sheriff Jones’ letters of recommendation from three Tennessee lawmakers, the “jail task force model” was referenced, but without getting any response from the sheriff on how he plans to implement the program, that question still remains unanswered.

Out of concern this funding could be approved and the 287(g) program would be implemented by local law enforcement in Knox County, leaders within the Hispanic and Latino community fear it will integrate and normalize racial profiling.

The ACLU of Tennessee gave a statement saying:

“The Knox County Sheriff’s Office is unfit for establishment of a voluntary 287(g) program, as clearly demonstrated by the sheriff’s track record of threatening to treat immigrants unfairly and unconstitutionally, as well as the numerous allegations of abuse by his department.

The 287(g) program encourages racial profiling and frequent deportations for misdemeanors, as seen time and again in communities where 287(g) programs have been implemented, including Nashville. The consequent erosion of trust in law enforcement undermines public safety for the entire community, as victims and witnesses of crimes fear coming forward.

287(g) can also be extremely expensive for local agencies. In Harris County, Texas, where Houston is located, the sheriff recently ended the 287(g) program, citing the need to prioritize the hundreds of thousands of dollars the program cost his department to focus on critical local priorities, such as overcrowding and bolstering clearance rates for major crimes.”

“Track record” refers to Sheriff Jones’ 2013 statement when his first 287(g) application was denied, saying he will “stack these violators like cordwood,” referencing illegal immigrants.

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