Actually, if you are white and speak with a hillbilly accent, no worries. You won't have to carry proof. On the other hand, if your skin is brown or you look or sound like a foreigner, well, it's probably time to move along.
And who would decide whether to check for documentation? That weighty responsibility would fall to all those astute civil libertarians working as jailers and deputy sheriffs across Tennessee. Under this legislation, sheriffs are required to send booking information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for those who cannot prove their legal status. Even the sheriff's association was against it.
"This legislation is un-American and effectively creates a police state," the ACLU's Hedy Weinberg writes in demanding that Gov. Phil Bredesen veto the bill. In her letter to the governor, Weinberg says the bill "invites disparate treatment of minority groups, and encourages racial profiling."
"Using local law enforcement who are untrained in the complexities and proper enforcement of federal immigration law [to enforce these laws] is a recipe for racial profiling. Under SB 1141/HB 670, once the individual is arrested, it becomes the responsibility of the jailer to attempt to determine that person's immigration status. It is likely that absent documentation of lawful presence, the jailer will rely on the arrested person's appearance, race, ethnicity, accent and language to attempt to determine the individual's legal status and determine whether or not to report the person to ICE."
One of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, actually said jailers ought to check the documentation of anyone who can't speak English fluently—a standard that would require the deportation of many members of our bumpkin legislature.
"I've seen many instances where someone is incarcerated in a local jail and there's a reasonable suspicion that they're not in the country legally based on factors, most prominent to me, that they are not able to speak English," he told the Associated Press.
To which immigrant rights advocate Stephen Fotopulos responded: "All U.S.-born citizens from Puerto Rico would be mortified to think that's a legitimate test."
If Bredesen vetoes the bill, the legislature can't override it without coming back into session. To do that, a super majority of each house would have to ask for it.