ACLU Urges Department of Homeland Security to Reject Knox County Sheriff's 287(g) Application

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
April 3, 2017 4:15 pm

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The American Civil Liberties Union expressed its “deep concerns” regarding the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and other jurisdictions’ applications to the 287(g) immigration enforcement program in a recent letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“The Knox County Sheriff’s Office has clearly demonstrated through its track record of threatening of constitutional violations and numerous allegations of abuse that it would be a poor choice for establishment of a 287(g) program,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN executive director.

The ACLU’s letter identifies numerous problems within the Knox County Sheriff’s Office that demonstrate that the jurisdiction is unable to assume responsibility for a 287(g) program “without constitutional and civil rights violations.” These include the Knox County Sheriff’s own statement following a previous denial for a 287(g) agreement that he would enforce federal immigration law as he sees fit, in violation of the constitution, by holding people merely suspected to have disobeyed federal immigration laws in his detention facility, “stack[ing] these violators like cordwood.”

The letter also cites overcrowding at the facility and multiple allegations of abuse, including a vicious assault on an individual with mental health needs and cerebral palsy by detention facility staff; the continued use of a “restraint chair” in violation of stated detention facility policies; and the lack of evaluation, treatment and monitoring of an inmate known to have mental health and addiction issues which resulted in his death due to hanging. Knox County has also settled lawsuits regarding inadequate medical care for a broken neck that went undiagnosed and untreated for nearly three months and the videotaped beating of an inmate with a mental disability.

The ACLU’s letter urges Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be more transparent about 287(g) applications, which are not made public, and to hold public meetings with local officials in communities where a 287(g) application has been submitted. The ACLU further urges termination of the 287(g) program completely, stating that 287(g) agreements cost localities money while damaging public safety and community trust in law enforcement.

“When local law enforcement agents engage in bias-based policing or act as immigration agents, many witnesses and victims of crimes fear coming forward and public safety on the whole suffers,” Weinberg continued.

A copy of the ACLU’s letter to the Department of Homeland Security can be found at

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