News

Event Helps Immigrants Begin Citizenship Process

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) hosted a workshop this past Saturday in Chattanooga to educate immigrants about how to begin the process of obtaining American citizenship. During the event, volunteer attorneys assisted attendees in determining their eligibility for citizenship while others helped fill out necessary forms. TBA Immigration Section Chair Terry Olsen with the Olsen Law Firm provided training to help volunteers spot legal issues in the application process. TIRCC is a statewide organization dedicated to empowering immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee by helping them defend their rights and be recognized as positive contributors to the state.

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Sheriff Threatens to 'Stack Violators Like Cordwood' After ICE Decision

Immigrant-advocacy groups in Knox County are not happy with their sheriff, Jimmy “J.J.” Jones, after he responded to the news that the 287(g) immigration enforcement program has been rejected by federal officials. The government "used sequestration as a smokescreen to shirk its responsibilities for providing safety and security to its citizens," he wrote on his website. " 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."  Rev. John Gill, representing more than 20 congregations and the Interfaith Worker Justice of East Tennessee says Jones takes a "very human issue and moral issue … and turns it into what appears to be a political issue for him." WBIR has the story

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Knox Application for ICE Program Denied

The Knox County Sheriff’s Office application to participate in a controversial immigration enforcement program has been rejected by federal officials, Knoxnews reports. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which runs the program, attributes its decision to budgetary constraints. “Due to resource concerns, including the impacts of sequestration, ICE is limiting 287(g) participation to those law enforcement agencies with existing [programs].” The 287(g) program authorizes and trains local police to enforce federal immigration laws.

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Free Domestic Violence Training for Lawyers, Advocates

The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence is offering a statewide legal advocacy training session Sept. 6 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Tennessee Health Management in Antioch. Robin Kimbrough, legal counsel for the group, will conduct the training for lawyers and advocates. Topics will include the basics of civil and criminal law in cases of domestic and sexual violence, the role of advocates and attorneys, tips on avoiding the unauthorized practice of law, and benefits for immigrant victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, stalking and trafficking. The training is free but reservations are requested. Learn more or register here.

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New York Lawyer Takes Office as ABA President

Accepting the presidential gavel today at the ABA Annual Meeting, New York lawyer James Silkenat laid out a series of initiatives he intends to focus on during his year in office. These include a renewed effort to improve access to justice, creating employment opportunities for new lawyers and addressing the public policy issues of gun violence, immigration and election law reform. The ABA Journal reports.

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Florida Bar Supports Admission for Immigrant Lawyer

Florida Bar leaders have voted to support a petition seeking to amend state bar rules to allow the admission of undocumented immigrants. The effort was organized by Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, former president of the ABA and Florida State University, who is representing bar applicant Jose Godinez-Samperio. A petition in support of admission was signed by 106 members of the state bar, including a former state governor, top judges, two former ABA presidents and five former bar presidents. Godinez-Samperio, who was brought to this country as a child, has passed the state bar exam and is awaiting a ruling on the issue by the state supreme court. The ABA Journal has more on the story.

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Home School Parents to Petition High Court

A couple who fled Germany to home school their children but have been denied U.S. asylum, say they are preparing to ask the Supreme Court to hear the case. They also told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that they are working with Congress to try to change the law. The Romeikes moved to East Tennessee in 2008 after an escalating fight with German officials. The family initially was granted asylum by a Memphis immigration judge, but that ruling was overturned. In May, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said the family did not meet the criteria for asylum, finding that Germany does not single out religious minorities for persecution. The family’s lawyer, however, disagrees saying Germany uses the mandatory schooling law to limit the growth of religious minorities.

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GOP Lawmakers Split on Immigration Bill

Tennessee GOP House members remain critical of the immigration reform bill that their fellow Tennessee Republicans, senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, helped pass in the Senate. The House Republican Conference meets today to decide what, if any, route to take on the issue. Congressional Democrats insisted Tuesday they will not agree to any immigration bill that lacks a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States. The Tennessean has more.

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Knox County to Participate in Deportation Program

Less than a year after the Davidson County Sheriff’s office halted its participation in a controversial program that gives local law enforcement the authority to enforce federal immigration laws, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office has announced it will participate in the program. At a meeting last week, the county sheriff heard from critics who argue the program leads to racial profiling, separation of families and distrust of law enforcement. He was not swayed, Knoxnews reports. After initially applying to the program in 2010, Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones said he expects to finalize a memorandum of understanding with the federal government within the next few weeks.

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State Officials: Arizona Ruling Does Not Impact State

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling concerning Arizona's law requiring proof of citizenship for people registering to vote does not impact Tennessee’s election laws, WSMV reports. In a news release last week, Hargett said that Tennessee doesn't require that kind of proof when registering to vote, instead requiring the voter to swear that he or she is a citizen.

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Court Grants 4 Case Reviews

The Tennessee Supreme Court has granted review in two criminal cases and two civil matters, Raybin-Perky Hot List reports. The criminal case issues include an ineffective assistance of counsel claim in a death penalty case regarding mental health proof; and whether expunged convictions may still be challenged in post-conviction proceedings where there are lingering immigration consequences. On the civil front, the court will determine whether a trial court may require a prevailing party to draft a summary judgment order without offering its own legal reasoning, and whether an inmate in state custody, but in a privately operated facility, may only bring a lawsuit in the county in which the facility is located as opposed to the corporation headquarters in Nashville. 

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State Election Officials to Review Arizona Ruling

Tennessee election officials say they plan to review yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling that Arizona’s voter identification requirement is inconsistent with federal law, the Associated Press reports. Two years ago, Tennessee enacted legislation that allows election officials to purge noncitizen residents from election rolls. Under the law, anyone listed as a noncitizen has 30 days to present proof of citizenship or be removed from the rolls. A spokesperson for the Secretary of State says election officials will review the ruling to see if it affects Tennessee law. The Memphis Daily News has the story.

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Obama, Business Leaders Support Immigration Reform

Immigration legislation making its way through the U.S. Senate gained the support of Tennessee business leaders last week. The Tennessean reports that representatives from the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. of Tennessee, the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and others announced support for the plan, which also was endorsed by President Obama last week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he hopes to have a vote on the bill by July 4.

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Court Strikes Down Arizona’s Voter I.D. Law

The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down Arizona's requirement that would-be voters submit proof of citizenship, the ABA Journal reports. The majority opinion, authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, found that the law conflicted with the federal "motor voter" law, which allows individuals to register to vote without supplying proof of citizenship. The court also was unconvinced that the federal voter registration form needs to be changed to include additional information, which the state said it needed to determine a voter’s eligibility. But Scalia said the state could petition the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to alter the form and then appeal any decision not to make changes.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr. dissented from the decision arguing that it interprets “an ambiguous federal statute in a way that brushes aside the constitutional authority of the states" since "under the Constitution, the states, not Congress, have the authority to establish the qualifications of voters in elections for members of Congress." Civil liberties groups such as the ACLU applauded the ruling saying it invalidated a burdensome requirement that restricted citizens' ability to register to vote." Writing at SCOTUSblog, however, one law professor warned the ruling should not be read too broadly as the case “involved a question of statutory construction, not a constitutional challenge."

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Tenn. Lawmakers Looking at Immigration Bill

Tennessee lawmakers are voicing varied opinions on Senate Bill 744 during debate on comprehensive immigration reform, the Tennessean reports. U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander have questioned the border-security provisions, while Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, says the bill looks “promising.” Reps. Scott DesJarlais, R-Jasper, and Stephen Fincher, R-Frog Jump, say they are skeptical of the Senate bill.

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Educators Push for Immigration Reform

Twenty-one leaders of Tennessee’s colleges and universities have sent letters to U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, urging their support for a bipartisan plan that would ensure foreign-born students educated in the U.S. have a clear path to work in this country after graduation. The educators say current immigration policy threatens “America’s pre-eminence as a global center of innovation and prosperity” because of its inability to retain skilled foreign-born graduates. The Chattanooga Times Free Press has the story.

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Attorney’s Police Aspirations Evolved into Legal Career

Memphis native Shayla Purifoy had planned to become a police officer before deciding that the legal profession was the right fit for her. She began working on domestic violence cases through a general civil litigation clinic after taking a social welfare and policy course at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. Now with Memphis Area Legal Services, Purifoy works with immigrant women who are victims of domestic abuse. “I just enjoy helping people,” she told the Memphis Daily News.

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Appeals Court: Jury Should Have Heard Shackled Pregnant Inmate Case

The case of a pregnant Nashville inmate who was shackled during labor is headed back to district court to be heard by a jury after a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that summary judgment granted in the case was inappropriate because there were disputed facts that needed to be decided by a jury. While the appeals court found that “shackling of pregnant detainees while in labor” violates the Constitution’s prohibition against “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain,” it said there are exceptions when a prisoner poses a danger or a flight risk. The court concluded that determining whether Juana Villegas posed a flight risk should have been decided by a jury not by a judge, Knoxnews reports.

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Education, Jobs, TennCare Top Chamber’s Priority List

The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce released its 2013 state legislative agenda yesterday, identifying its top priorities for Tennessee lawmakers. The Nashville Business Journal reports that improving primary and secondary education topped the list in terms of importance, followed by job creation, support for the federally funded TennCare/Medicaid expansion, workers’ compensation reform and immigration reform.

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Immigration Attorney Finds Ideal Job with CLC

Johnna Bailey began working as immigration attorney for the Community Legal Center (CLC) in January, an ideal job for her given her nonprofit background. “It’s what I dreamed of returning to after law school,” she told the Memphis Daily News. After college, Bailey worked as a program coordinator for the family literacy program at a refugee resettlement agency in Chicago. That inspired her to go to law school where she then served as an associate in a private immigration group. Now at the CLC, Bailey represents clients and trains lawyers to take on pro bono immigration cases. She said the Memphis legal community has been willing and eager to help when called.

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Senators Announce Principles to Guide Immigration Overhaul

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has reached agreement on principles that could serve as the basis for sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration laws. The outline calls for creating a “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants in the country, securing the border, establishing a better tracking system for visa holders, creating a more secure employment verification system, reforming the green card program, and creating an agricultural worker program. Knoxnews.com has more on the proposal.

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Memphis Lawyer Sees Hope for Immigration Reform

Political and economic trends are telling Memphis immigration lawyer Greg Siskind that the likelihood of immigration reform is better than it has been in some time. The leader of the Siskind Susser law firm and national commentator on immigration law, Siskind told The Memphis Daily News that the role Latinos played in the recent election and the need for skilled immigrants in some areas of the economy make this a politically ideal time to pursue immigration reform.

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Immigration Top Priority for Senate Judiciary Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee will dedicate most of its time this spring to comprehensive immigration reform including changes for technology companies and agricultural businesses, committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, said Wednesday. The Blog of the Legal Times reports that the committee will begin public hearings next month. Leahy also stated the committee will continue oversight of the nation's counterterrism efforts and protecting civil liberties, including the administration’s use of drones abroad as well as in the U.S.

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Williamson Sheriff Settles Immigrant Detention Suit

A federal suit accusing the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office of illegally holding suspects while deputies determined their immigration status has settled after the judge overseeing the case ruled that the county was obligated to hold the suspects on a request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. With that opinion, the Tennessean reports, the city opted to make a small settlement rather than pursue a jury trial. Six plaintiffs will receive $2,500 in damages, while an additional $7,000 in attorney’s fees will be paid.

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Court: Sheriff Can Perform Immigration Duties

The Davidson County Sheriff’s office did not violate Metro Charter or other state laws when it contracted with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to perform immigration enforcement duties, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today. The court ruled against plaintiffs Daniel Renteria- Villegas, David Gutierrez-Turcios and Rosa Landaverde, who challenged the agreement arguing that only the Chief of Police has authority under the Charter to provide immigration enforcement. Read the full opinion.

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