2013 Tennessee Immigration Legislation Outlook - Articles

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Posted by: Christy Gibson on Nov 14, 2012

By Miska Shaw* and Jonathan Ring*

In trying to determine what immigration bills to anticipate out of the 2013 Tennessee legislative session, it is helpful to look back at several immigration-related bills which passed or were introduced in the 2011-12 legislative session. The bills covered a wide variety of topics, including criminal law (SB 2604/HB 2678 requiring higher bail for illegal immigrants involved in traffic accidents that cause death or serious bodily harm), employment law (SB1669/HB1378 requiring Tennessee employers to use the federal government’s E-Verify system or copy and maintain I-9 type documentation), and entitlement programs (SB1325/HB1379 requiring state agencies and political subdivisions to verify applicants age 18 and older prior to providing public benefits).  

Many other immigration-related bills were either voted down or left pending in committee at the close of the legislative session.  These “leftover” bills provide insight into the types of immigration-related legislation that may be introduced and debated in the upcoming 2013 Tennessee legislative session.  For example, House Representative Joe Carr has been a prolific proponent of immigration-related legislation in the past two legislative sessions.  Some of Representative Carr’s “leftover” bills from 2012 that may be re-introduced in 2013 are: (1) the creation of a felony offense for concealing, harboring and/or shielding illegal aliens; (2) the Lawful Immigration Enforcement Act, which would require law enforcement to question a suspect regarding their immigration status if there is reasonable suspicion that the person is in the U.S. illegally; and (3) a bill requiring Tennessee’s public colleges and universities to verify the legal status of admissions applicants. 

Leftover immigration-related bills sponsored by other state representatives or senators would have required health care facilities to verify patients’ immigration status and mandated that landlords collect and report to the State certain tenant identification information which could later be used to determine the citizenship and immigration status of the tenants.

Immigration-related legislation that was introduced and debated in the State of Arizona may also provide a preview of the 2013 Tennessee legislative session.  Indeed, many of the 2012 immigration-related bills in Tennessee were nearly identical to those introduced or passed in Arizona and other states with Republican-controlled legislatures in previous years.

         Tennessee citizens can also expect to see the introduction of bills aimed at limiting the effect of the President Obama’s executive order instructing the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) and other federal agencies with oversight of immigration matters to exercise their discretion to defer removal actions against adults who were illegally brought to the United States as children. (If certain criteria are met, these immigrants are granted work authorizations for two-year periods.) In response to this development, Tennessee legislators may introduce bills that would limit their enjoyment of certain privileges of Tennessee residency, such as obtaining a driver’s license. Conversely, other Tennessee legislators may introduce bills to prevent the types of restrictions discussed above. 

Furthermore, it appears that Congress will begin to tackle the issue of immigration reform in 2013, which will greatly affect the efforts of state legislatures to address what many see as a hole in federal immigration enforcement. 


*Miska L. Shaw is an associate at Glankler Brown, PLLC in Memphis. She concentrates her practice in the areas of general civil litigation, public finance and labor and employment law. She is a member of the TBA Immigration Law Section as well as the National Association of Bond Lawyers. Ms. Shaw may be contacted 901.576.1793 or mshaw@glankler.com.  Jonathan Ring is a law student at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.