Local undocumented immigrants and members of the No Papers, No Fear bus ride for freedom gathered in front of Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones' office this afternoon to send a message: undocumented immigrants just want to talk.
Former law professor Fran Ansley spoke in support of the group's aim: to prevent the policy 287(g) from being enforced in Knoxville. The policy involves U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement training and delegating responsibility to local police forces. The Knox County Sheriff's department filed for a 287(g) grant in 2009, and this year protests against adopting the policy have been going on since April.
Ansley said programs like 287(g) entangle local law enforcement in federal issues as well as "invite and encourage racial profiling."
While Sheriff Jones continually refuses direct communication with local undocumented immigrants, Ansley said, "the arrests and deportations grind on and on."
Arrests happened this afternoon, and Ansley was among those taken to the Knox County jail. Also among those arrested was young activist Alejandro Guizar, whose struggles with deportation we wrote about earlier in August.
Police officers arrived after the protesters blocked traffic at the intersection of Gay St. and E. Hill Ave around 3:30 p.m. At least four people who were seated in the middle of the road were handcuffed and taken to police cars. All went without a physical fight.
Among the approximately 80 protesters were members of the "undocubus" group. When the No Papers, No Fear riders heard about locals' impasse with the sheriff, they decided to make a stop in Knoxville while on their way to Charlotte, N.C.
"We don't want [the policy] to have the same effect here as in other cities," bus rider and Arizona resident Natalie Cruz said, referring to the 287(g) policy.
In her own family, two people have been deported in towns that apply 287(g) and similar policies.
"It affects families every day," she said.
Miguel Carpizo, the East Tennessee organizer for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, said Sheriff Jones has refused to respond to hundreds of letters asking him to communicate with local undocumented immigrants.
"We want to restore human dignity," he said. "We're going to stay here as human beings."
A police officer would not comment on what, if any, charges the arrested protesters will face, or whether the undocumented protesters arrested will be deported.
Another rally will be held at Krutch Park at 6 p.m.