Arrests Of Foreigners Double Over Memorial Day Weekend

Jared Allen, City Paper (Nashville), May 30, 2007

The number of foreign-born persons physically arrested by Metro Police over the Memorial Day weekend was more than twice as high as the average number from a weekend, according to Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall, who is responsible for screening all foreign-born arrestees for federal immigration violations.

Although Hall and his deputies have no police powers in Nashville, they do have the ability to run immigration checks on every foreign-born person brought to the jail by Metro Police.

And through that ability—as a result of a law enforcement sharing arrangement with the federal government known commonly as 287(g)—the Sheriff’s Office identified as being illegal aliens 92 percent—61 people—of the 66 foreign-born persons physically arrested by Metro Police last weekend.

That number is in line with what the Sheriff’s Office has seen every week since it began running immigration checks through 287(g) last month.

But what was twice as high as normal was the percentage of total arrestees who were foreign-born.

Over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a total of 299 persons were physically arrested and brought into the Metro jail for booking.

Preliminary figures from the Sheriff’s Office show that 66 of those individuals—or 22 percent of the total—were born outside the United States.

Since 287(g) was implemented, the average number of foreign-born arrestees has steadily hovered around 10 percent of the total arrest population. In fact, 10 percent was the number the Sheriff’s Office used as an estimate when preparing for the 287(g) program.

At the same time, it is the number both the sheriff as well as immigrants rights advocates say is critical to gauging the full affect of 287(g).

A steady and lasting rise in the number of foreign-born persons arrested as a percentage of the entire arrestee population could be an early sign of racial profiling by the Metro Police Department, or some other phenomenon suggesting that crime among immigrants is on the rise, members of Sheriff Hall’s Immigration Advisory Council have cautioned for months.

At this point, no one is suggesting that Metro Police purposefully arrested more foreign-born persons over the weekend, or that any one factor is responsible for the rise.

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Over the weekend, Metro Police charged 62 individuals with Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Sheriff’s Office personnel processed at least 17 illegal aliens for removal proceedings who were brought to jail because of a DUI charge, although the number could be higher (Exact figures on how many of those 61 persons who were set for removal were charged with DUI was not immediately available).

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Nashville attorney Sean Lewis said he saw a dozen clients over the weekend, all who were being processed for removal in addition to having criminal cases to contend with.

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Despite the fact that the Sheriff’s Office was unable to provide exact data on what each of the 61 identified illegal aliens was criminally charged with, Lewis said it was obvious to him—at least anecdotally—that the majority of his clients came into contact with police and were arrested because of driving offenses.

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Arrest data from the Police Department shows that, in addition to the 62 persons Metro Police charged with DUI, police charged 32 individuals with the misdemeanor offense of driving without a license.

Of the 32 driving without a license charges issued over the weekend, only 12 were issued to persons who had another, more serious charge, whether the additional charge be a driving offense—such as DUI—or a more serious misdemeanor—such as drug possession—or a felony—such as assault.

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Metro Police have maintained that while it is generally their preference to issue citations in lieu of physical arrests, they are usually compelled to physically arrest a person who cannot verifiably prove their identity.

The Metro Criminal Justice Planning Unit has found that Metro Police physically arrest approximately 75 percent of Hispanics charged with driving without a license, as opposed to the 75 percent of Caucasian persons who Metro Police issue citations to for driving without a license.

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