ICE letter to Knox County Sheriff denying application for 287(g)
Update 12:30 p.m.
A spokesperson for KCSO said, as of Wednesday morning, the sheriff's department still has not received any official notification from ICE.
However, Nashville-based group Tennessee Immigration and Refugee Rights Coalition has obtained a copy of that letter.
A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed to 10News the document is an authentic copy of the letter sent to Knox County.
[See attached image for full ICE letter]
In that note, ICE Executive Director Thomas D. Homan explains why the agency denied Knox County's application for the 287(g) program:
"Due to resource concerns, including the impacts of sequestration, ICE is limiting 287(g) participation to those Law Enforcement Agencies with existing MOAs [Memorandum of Agreements]."
In the letter, Homan offers to continue working with Knox County law enforcement through other ICE programs.
On Wednesday, several groups marked their support for ICE's decision.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU) said its concerns for 287(g) were based on experiences with the program when Davidson County previously implemented it.
In an emailed statement, Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said the ACLU applauds ICE's decision:
"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."
Several faith leaders in Knox County also expressed support for the decision not to implement the program. In a letter to Sheriff Jones, more than 50 clergy and lay layers from 26 congregations voiced joint support from the Interfaith Worker Justice group.
Update 11:24 a.m.
(WBIR - Knoxville) Sheriff J.J. Jones released a new statement Wednesday morning regarding ICE's decision not to implement 287(g) in Knox County:
"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."
Knox County will not be implementing a controversial program designed to identify people who commit crimes and are in the country illegally.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Public Affairs Officer Bryan D. Cox confirmed to 10News Knox County's application has been denied.
KCSO spokeswoman Martha Dooley said the sheriff's office has not yet received any official notification from ICE.
Sheriff J.J. Jones released this statement by email Tuesday afternoon:
"As of this time, we have not received any information from ICE concerning the 287(g) program. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on this matter until such time I received confirmation or denial from an appropriate official. It is unfortunate that we have received numerous media requests asking for comments regarding the denial of the program when we have received no official communication from the agency."
Community members have held several public meetings expressing their opposition to the program.
Tuesday, several immigrants and their allies said they are relieved the application was denied.
"We don't have the imminent threat of continued separation of families, which is the biggest threat," said Lourdes Garza, executive director of Hispanic Ministries for the Knoxville Catholic Diocese.
"It's a huge relief, because this has been a long fight," said Alejandro Guizar, an immigrant from Mexico. "That's a victory that we should acknowledge and celebrate, but that doesn't mean the work stops."
Emma Ellis-Cosigua, originally from Guatemala, said it is now time to repair the somewhat-strained relationship between members of the community and law enforcement.
"The main thing is, we figure out a way to repair the broken relationship. We don't want to have animosity among the police department or sheriff's department," she said.