Nashville immigration proposals dead as council members plan withdrawal

Amid intensifying opposition and a call from Mayor Megan Barry to rethink their upcoming actions, Metro Council sponsors now plan to withdraw a pair of bills that sought to limit Metro’s cooperation with federal immigration officials.

The action will effectively kill the legislation.

At-large Councilman Bob Mendes blamed “political realities” for derailing legislation he said was intended to make the city’s growing foreign-born population feel safer in their communities.

He claimed the proposals had the support of a majority of Nashvillians but pointed to a backlash in more conservative parts of Tennessee.

“Despite the popular support in Davidson County, there’s been a great deal of opposition from outside the county, and these bills have become a political football for people running for governor in the Republican primary and other races statewide,” Mendes said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

“It’s almost become a race to the bottom to see who can criticize Nashville more, who can criticize immigrants more.

The retreat marks a fast fall for a proposal that just eight days ago seemed to have momentum when the council on a 25-8 decision advanced it on the second of three required votes. A final vote had been set for next Thursday.

It comes one day after Mayor Megan Barry, who had remained neutral on the issue, urged the council to “reconsider” the immigration ordinance after Metro Director of Law Jon Cooper issued a legal opinion that said the ordinance is not enforceable.

Cooper said that under state law the council cannot prohibit Nashville Sheriff Daron Hall, who controls the city’s jails, from cooperating with federal authorities on immigration. Hall opposes the bills.

Support of some council members seemed in jeopardy as the ordinance was under increasing fire.

Republicans in the Tennessee legislature led opposition to the Nashville proposal.

They condemned the council and threatened to overturn a proposal they alleged would turn Nashville into a “sanctuary city” for immigrants in the nation illegally. Critics included every announced or speculated 2018 Republican candidate for governor, including House Speaker Beth Harrell of Nashville.