Immigration law too vague, Shelby County attorney says

WATCH: Immigration law too vague, local attorney says

SHELBY CO., Tenn. — Shelby County’s Attorney said Tennessee’s new immigration law doesn’t apply to the Sheriff’s Office because it’s too vague.

The law bans sanctuary city policies and local government policies that restrict compliance with federal immigration detainers. The law passed without Governor Bill Haslam’s signature last May.

Following the advice of the county attorney, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said it will not detain anyone being released from jail unless there is a warrant or probable cause to do so.

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Members of Latino Memphis said this statement by the county sends a clear message to state house.

“This is another example of how legislators create laws that are not well thought through,” said Mauricio Calvo, the executive director of Latino Memphis.

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This week, Shelby County Attorney Marlinee Iverson said Tennessee’s new immigration law is unenforceable because of its “vagueness.”

Iverson said the law’s intent is unclear and requires unconstitutional conduct for law enforcement agencies.

“Just the way this reads, you know, Tennessee immigration law in itself is very contradictory. States do not set immigration; the federal government does and it’s the sole role of the federal government to enforce it,” said Calvo.

Calvo said the county is taking the right stand by refusing to follow the new immigration law.

“The sheriff and county attorney are doing the right to do not only for immigrant community but for the county, violating someone’s rights are not only unconstitutional and immoral but out the county in liability situation where they could be sued for violating those rights,” said Calvo.

With the General Assembly reconvening next week, Calvo hopes to see other county attorneys take a similar stance.

“Hopefully, this is going to show them we’re doing the right thing once again, and we’re staying not only on the right side of history but actually doing the right thing,” said Calvo.

The county’s statement is getting some backlash from top Republican leaders.

In a statement, Lt Governor Randy McNally said, “Shelby County needs to reevaluate their position. As outlined in the law, continued refusal will result in the forfeit of state economic and community development grants which would negatively affect the local economy in Shelby County.”

For the county attorney's full statement, click here.