People gathered in downtown Knoxville Monday afternoon to protest a program that enforces immigration laws.
A crowd gathered in solidarity to voice their opposition to the Knox County Sheriff's Office's application to become a 287(g) jurisdiction under the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The program allows state or local law enforcement agencies to partner with ICE, and its gives the agencies the authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions.
Rita Castanon, a protester whose father was deported when she was 11, said she fears the program will split up families.
"If one of our families comes here, then they run the possibility of being deported and detained, and I don't want that to happen," Castanon said.
Nashville took part in the 287(g) program but stopped participating in 2012.
Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, who is with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, said the program in Nashville separated immigrant families and caused trauma.
"There were about 10,000 Nashvillians who were deported during that time, people for fishing without a license or driving without a license, really minor infractions," she said.
Knox County Sheriff J.J. Jones told 10News in March: "It should be pointed out that local law enforcement has never actively gone out and sought individuals who are in our country illegally. With that being said, it is my intent that these individuals should follow the laws, just as we do who are here legally. If they fail to do so, then their ability to stay in this country should be examined and possibility revoked."
A couple of counter-protesters stood on the other side of the issue Monday afternoon. Jason Rankin came from Jefferson City to voice his support for the 287(g) program and immigration enforcement.
"My family came to this country legally in the late 1600s from Scotland," Rankin said. "I know the process was not as complex back then, but we followed it, whatever it was. I'm not asking anyone else to do anything less."
If the application is approved, the Knox County Sheriff's Office would be the only agency in the state currently participating in the program.
ICE previously denied KCSO's application in 2013.
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