For most who fish in Nashville’s lakes and streams, getting caught without a license means a ticket, a small fine and forfeiting the catch. For immigrants nabbed by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers, reports The Tennessean, it can mean a trip to jail and possible deportation to their home countries. Since Nashville’s Davidson County Sheriff’s Office instituted an immigration enforcement program in 2007, the wildlife agency issued 820 citations in the county but took only 29 people to jail – all of those immigrants. The arrests were made because the fishermen weren’t carrying valid identification.
“We have to determine they are who they say they are,” said Cape Taylor, Region 2 law enforcement manager. “If you can’t determine that, and they don’t have a valid ID, they are going to be arrested.” Immigrant advocates say the figures are one more example of how the sheriff’s program misses the mark, causing those who commit minor offenses to be jailed and, typically, separated from their families by deportation. Arresting people for fishing without a license does not protect a community from real threats and can constitute racial profiling, said Art Venegas, former Sacramento police chief.