“Sanctuary City” issue deeply divides new TN House speaker and Nashville’s mayor

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The controversial issue of sanctuary cities is pitting the new Republican Tennessee House speaker against Nashville’s Democratic mayor.

Going on radio, television and releasing a statement today, Speaker Cameron Sexton referred to Mayor Briley’s recent executive action as trying to make Nashville “the San Francisco of the South.”

When asked to respond, Mayor Briley said “Republicans in the state are trying to see who can be the most anti-immigrant amongst them all. Its a big Republican issue right now.”

During an interview Tuesday, Speaker Sexton said “What he is saying is telling law enforcement not to comply with state law and federal laws.” 

Mayor Briley issued an executive order September 3rd urging repeal of House Bill 2315 which drew Tennessee Capitol Hill protests before it became law this year. 

The bill bans sanctuary cities in Tennessee, requires law enforcement to comply with immigration officials and allows the withholding of state economic development funds if there are violations.

Mayor Briley’s order also said “all Metro employees should know that they will not be disciplined by this city or their supervisors for failure to comply with requests from immigration and customs enforcement unless required by state or federal law, or by court order.”

The Republican speaker says the Democrat mayor has gone too far.

Speaker Sexton says state lawmakers may look at withholding other state money from Metro Nashville beyond several million dollars in economic development funds. 

“So we feel compelled to look at the entire budget and see if he continues to go down this road,” added the speaker.  “Do they need to keep all 15-18 percent they get from the state in their budget?”

That percentage could be several hundred million dollars and would need new state legislation to penalize Nashville.

Mayor Briley dismisses any potential state legislative action on his executive order.

“We were very careful that the executive order did not violate any state law–so the people of Nashville don’t need to be worried about losing any state money.” Mayor Briley said in an interview.

He echoed concerns similar to those who opposed passage of the anti-sanctuary city ban last year–things like some undocumented parents afraid to go to schools or even hospitals with their kids for fear they might be apprehended by immigration officials

“We have to do everything we can to make this a safe, strong and educated city and (HB) 2315 stands in the way of that,” added Mayor Briley.

This all comes as Briley is considered an underdog in Thursday’s mayoral runoff election.

His challenger John Cooper, who lead Briley by 10-points in last month’s general election,  said in a statement Tuesday that  “every executive order will be reviewed by me when the time comes. I look forward to that happening, but we’re not there yet.”

Speaker Sexton maintains Mayor Briley is “trying to circumvent the law” and “its just when he got in a tight political campaign this year and its not looking too good that he decided to try and make an issue out of it.”

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