Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sheriff Hall writes a pack of lies, and Nashville refuses to call him on it to end 287g program

To read the column published a week ago by Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall in The Tennessean, one would think that Metro Nashville is now a idyllic place where daisies grow where crack houses once stood and murdered bodies were outlined with chalk.

Hall does a great job of patting himself on the back for the heinous 287g deportation program he brought here -- Nashville, Music City, a supposedly progressive city.

It's not.

More than 4,000 human being illegally here have been arrested for minor offenses like fishing without a license or passing in the wrong lane with their motor vehicles. Then they've been deported after they could not produce enough documents to convince an arresting officer that would show up for traffic court. That in itself is a whole other issue that I will address in a blog post.

Yet just a few days after Hall's column appeared, two people described as "Hispanic" -- which could mean anyone from India or the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma -- shot and killed a local store owner. So much for Hall's claim of making Nashville safer with his 287g program.


Sadly, Sheriff Hall's column was simply a pack of lies. That has become his trademark since bringing the program to Nashville under the guise of arresting and deporting human beings illegally here with violent records. Since then, Hall has amended his program's cause to just anyone with a criminal record, which means a misdemeanor offense of jaywalking to littering. That's your tax money at work.

Hall had the arrogance to cite the benefit of a citizen board for 287g. He has chosen to ignore many board recommendations. He didn't even invite board members to his press conference earlier this year citing 287g and what Hall called success. Members serve only to watch Hall and document his close-mindedness. His shouting at members is legendary. Hall is not a professional.

And The Tennessean has bent over backward to appease Hall. The sheriff read the newspaper's top editors and editorial board the riot act for an article that appeared earlier this year showing the lies in Hall's program.

Since Hall's bragging about his aggressive action with The Tennessean in a meeting with some immigrant advocates and Police Chief Serpas, the newspaper has written lukewarm editorials gently rapping the sheriff on the knuckles. The most obvious crusade for The Tennessean would be to call for an end to 287g. But there is no courage or integrity left amid the leadership at 1100 N. Broadway.

In past blogs, I have tried to separate Nashville's police department from the action of Hall and his sheriff's department with 287g. But attorney Elliott Ozment's column details how a human being of Hispanic descent was questioned by police for simply sitting in a laudromat.

The father and working man presented the police the only ID he had, which was a falsified document so he could get paid. He had tried for a Social Security number, but the government denied that even though most undocumented workers have SS taxes taken out of their checks. He would have tried for a driver's license, but the state of Tennessee removed his ability to get such a document a few years ago.


Ozment -- an attorney who courageously represents human beings singled out by authorities for their ethnic and racial differences -- accuses police of racial profiling. And since I know Ozment, I do not doubt what he says. So now Chief Serpas and the Metro council have a matter of morality and fairness to answer to.

Will anyone force them to answer? No one has forced an answer from Mayor Karl Dean or Congressman Jim Cooper. Serpas may well get a pass, too.

The Tennessean ignored the story of Mrs. Juana Villegas (DeLaPaz), a very pregnant mother of three American citizens who was arrested three days before her due date by a Berry Hill police officer who refused her IDs that included car registration and a matricula card from the Mexican consulate.

The sheriff's department subsequently shackled her during labor and after. It then took her newborn away from her after his birth when he was needing his mother's milk for the development of his immune system. She was not allowed to express her milk for the child and was sent back to jail in intense pain from breasts swollen with life-enriching liquid.

It took this blog and other media led by WKRN Channel 2 and the Associated Press to spread national attention. A kind and intelligent immigrant advocate in Massachusetts, Shu Ohno, responded to my request for more publicity and contacted a reporter at The New York Times. The nation's paper of record then provided a generous amount of space for a picture and long story about the torture of Mrs. Villegas. Comparatively, The Tennessean ran an AP story on part of the bottom half of page 2 in its Local Section.

And contrary to The Tennessean's inadequate editorial last week, Amnesty International has not been involved in spreading notice about this case. I contacted them and it failed to do anything. I have the e-mails to prove it. But one really can expect The Tennessean to know what has been going on with this case from its gross lack of coverage.


The bottom line is very simple, and it is something for people who live outside of Nashville and Tennessee to consider when spending their dollars and making their tourism and convention choices:

Nashville is a city of intolerance. If your skin is not white, then you are fair game for whatever bigtory that lurks inside any authority figure. This city is not progressive.

It has a wonderful place on a hill called Vanderbilt University, which is a leader in so many ways in how an American community should be. But Vanderbilt is the exception here. And the current governor of Tennessee often referred to Vanderbilt as an "800-pound gorilla in the room". He didn't like intelligent, educated people differing in opinion from him. So he isolated the university from the rest of the city. And Nashville continues to suffer.

So to visitors and consumers, stay away from Nashville as a place to visit, hold your convention or buy from music products. The only way change will come is if Nashville feels pain in the pocketbook. You can bring about that change that people and newspapers here refuse to address.

Sheriff Hall's political days are numbered. His run for re-election will be aggressively challenged. Oh, I forgot to mention another truth. Hall is a Democrat, like the mayor and the local congressman. So go figure.

The South and Nashville remain the Old South, intolerant as always. The difference now is that the hatred has been placed on a new group of people but with the same dark skin.

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