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Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (Submitted)

Fifty people gathered in a conference room at the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition headquarters in South Nashville — Latinos from 15 different cities in Tennessee taking a course in how to prepare for a new state immigration law.

Julieta Martinelli / WPLN


Scroll down to read or hear this story in Spanish. Desplácese hacia abajo para leer o escuchar esta historia en español.

A Guatemalan mother separated from her 11-year-old daughter while attempting to cross into the United States to seek asylum in May reunited with her Thursday night at the Nashville International Airport. They were separated for more than six weeks.

Julieta Martinelli / WPLN

“You’re animals."

That was the first thing Albertina Contreras says she heard after she set foot on American soil, shortly before she was shackled and her daughter taken away to a detention facility for kids. They were headed for Murfreesboro, but only Contreras made it.

Now, attorneys are trying to reunite the family, in one of the first family separation cases identified in Tennessee. 

Julieta Martinelli / WPLN

Some educators and advocates are concerned that a new bill aimed at curbing illegal immigration could lead to parents pulling their children out of school. The measure, if signed by the Governor, would require law enforcement to comply with federal immigration authorities, which opponents say could virtually turn officers inside schools into immigration agents.

It was that fear which drove hundreds of people to protest in front of the state Capitol last week, in one of the largest immigration demonstrations in recent years.

Julieta Martinelli / WPLN


People living in a small, rural Tennessee town are still trying to navigate the fallout of a major federal immigration raid earlier this month.

Bean Station, in northeast Tennessee, is home to about 3,000 people. The big jobs in town are the meatpacking plants and tomato fields.

Julieta Martinelli / WPLN

A measure that would require sheriff's departments in Tennessee to hold people suspected of being in the country illegally — even when sheriffs have evidence that they're not — is making its way through the state legislature.

It's being described as a tightening up of a 2009 Tennessee law that banned so-called "sanctuary cities," municipalities that refuse to comply with federal immigration law. But some groups, including those representing immigrants and law enforcement, say the proposal could lead to citizens and legal residents being held unnecessarily.

Julieta M Martinelli / WPLN

Immigration advocates are calling last week’s operation at an East Tennessee meatpacking plant the largest workplace raid since President Trump took office. Ninety-seven workers allegedly without legal status were arrested, and more than half have already been transferred to detention centers out of state.

Chas Sisk / WPLN

A group of Nashville Kurds could be released from federal custody after spending nearly seven months in detention, after a judge in Michigan determined the government has not shown they're dangerous to the public or flight risks.

Chas Sisk / WPLN

So far this month, three dozen immigrants have been held in Nashville's jail at the request of federal authorities.

That fact is adding some urgency to a debate that's scheduled to begin tonight. At issue: how much Davidson County should work with immigration officials.

The proposed ordinances would prohibit the county jail from holding people on immigration violations alone. Local law enforcement would also be barred from sharing information about custody status and court dates with immigration officials.

Julieta Martinelli / WPLN

Governor Bill Haslam says he'll stay out of the debate over how much Nashville law enforcement must cooperate with federal immigration authorities, but he doubts the city will have much luck if it hopes to defy President Trump.

The Metro Council is expected to start discussion of some limits later this month. The proposals include requiring federal authorities to present a warrant if they want immigrants to be held longer than U.S.-born arrestees. The ordinance undergoes its first reading — typically a formality — on Tuesday night. 

Haslam says he isn't going to stand in the council's way.