When fishing in Tennessee fishing licenses are required, but what has also become necessary is carrying ID, and in recent cases, proof of legal immigration status.
The Davidson County Sheriff’s Office enacted an immigration enforcement program in 2007. Since then, the wildlife agency has issued a total of 820 citations resulting in only 29 being arrested. All 29 of those arrested were immigrants. A spokesperson for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency stated that officers don’t take people to jail for fishing without a license, but when shown contrary information, another official said arrests were made because those fishing were not carrying ID.
“We have to determine they are who they say they are. If you can’t determine that, and they don’t have a valid ID, they are going to be arrested,” said a law enforcement official.
Advocates for immigrants believe that the sheriff’s program only causes the deportation of undocumented immigrants who commit minor offenses. Named 287(g) after a section of federal immigration law, the sheriff’s program allows officers to run all foreign-born inmates through an immigration database and possibly deport them as part of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy. However, the federal government has stated time and time again that its 287(g) resources are meant to rid the United States of dangerous felons.
Spokeswoman from the sheriff’s office, Karla Weikal claimed that a third of the fisherman arrested through 287(g) for not have fishing licenses had prior charges stating, “Advocates have sensationalized the issue of this program. The immigrants community would be better served if advocates would spend more time publicly explaining how to avoid the arrest in the first place rather than perpetrating fear.”
25 of the 29 immigrants arrested were processed for deportation for not having fishing licenses or U.S. identification.
Since 2007, when the 287(g) program started in Davidson County, 7,887 inmates have been processed through it and 5,338 were deported according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.