"I’m getting a little tired of all the chest thumping on this stuff. The only message to me from what Arizona did is it just underlines the failure of the federal government to step up to this issue and deal with this issue of immigration. There are real issues there, but they are not going to be solved by Arizona. I’m the governor of this state, and I’m not going to enforce the immigration laws of the federal government. If they’re not doing a good job collecting taxes, I’m not going to do that for the federal government. There are lots of things that are federal issues. They need to deal with them. The immigration stuff, I absolutely believe that we need to control our borders. … But having said that, it is slopping over into this kind of being opposed to anybody who you don’t see as a blue-blooded American speaking English and looking like other Americans. It very easily slips over into that, and I think a lot of that is going on in this immigration thing, and I don’t agree with that at all. This is a nation of immigrants. It’s always been a wonderful melting pot."
The governor said he might veto a bill authorizing employers to require English to be spoken in the workplace “if necessary to conduct the employer’s business.” On the other hand, he said, the bill doesn't really do anything.
"It seems to me to be mostly chest thumping. Everything that it covers is already permitted under Tennessee law and obviously, to the extent that federal law is covered, it doesn’t matter what we pass in Tennessee. I don’t like the signal it sends but I want to find out if it actually does anything before I decide."
As for the bill requiring sheriffs to check the documentation of everyone they arrest to determine whether they're in the country legally, the governor said, "I’m looking at that. I don’t have an answer. That one is definitely on the short pile of bills to look at."
Update: Bredesen has signed the English-Only workplace bill. From his press office:
Today Governor Bredesen signed HB 2685 into law. After a thorough review of the legislation, the governor determined the English-only portion of the bill did not change Tennessee law. The bill also includes unrelated employment protections for volunteer rescue squad workers, of which the governor was very supportive.