The proposed Tennessee bill would require law enforcement in the state to communicate with federal officials regarding the immigration status of a person. AFP

Lawmakers in Tennessee recently passed a law requiring local law enforcement to communicate with federal officials regarding the immigration status of a person in late March. Now, community members are urging the governor to veto it.

Over 200 demonstrators walked from Public Square Park to the Capitol to urge Gov. Bill Lee not to sign HB 2124/SB 2576, which is currently at his desk awaiting his final approval. The demonstrators also delivered a petition to stop the bill from taking effect, The Tennessean reported.

"We're out here rallying and protesting because of this ICE collaboration bill," said Mallika Vohra, communications coordinator for TIRRC Votes, an affiliate organization of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. "We wanted to come out here and show our opposition to that legislation and anti-immigration legislation in general, because there's a lot of that."

The proposed bill says law enforcement agencies and officials "shall" cooperate in various immigration tasks already spelled out in state law, instead of saying they "are authorized" to do so, terminology that was put into Tennessee code in a toughening of state immigration law that passed in 2018.

The bill also refers back to a federal law that says it is voluntary for states and local governments to get involved in certain federal immigration law enforcement tasks, AP News reports.

"President Biden's administration has delivered this pain to our doorsteps," Tennessee Republican Rep. Chris Todd of Madison County said during the state's House debate.

Democrats, on the other hand, believe that this bill would hurt communities of immigrants who are seeking a better life.

"If you're fleeing countries due to violence, if you're fleeing places due to humanitarian issues, we are turning our back on those individuals," said Rep. Justin Pearson, a Memphis Democrat. "And that is immoral and wrong."

Attending Thursday's rally was a variety of pro-immigrant organizations, including the American Muslim Advisory Council, Casa de la Cultura, Poder Popular, Tennessee Justice for our Neighbors and Workers' Dignity, and more, The Tennessean reported.

Vorah emphasized the need for lawmakers to see who the bill could hurt.

"Ideal situation, Lee vetoes it and our voices are heard," she said. "But if it is signed into law, this will hurt people who call this city home. So we're out here making our presence known, and making clear that Tennessee is our home and we deserve to live in private dignity."

It remains unclear whether or not the Governor plans to sign the bill.

The Tennessee law comes following a series of push from Republican lawmakers in several conservative states to pass stricter immigration laws.

The most notable one, in Texas, would allow authorities in the state to arrest and deport migrants who enter the U.S. illegally and order them to leave the country. SB 4, as that bill is known, has given way to major waves of controversy, and it is currently in a legal battle where lawyers and lawmakers are debating on its constitutionality.

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