Almost 600 ‘noncitizen’ migrants could come to Middle TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Nearly 600 “noncitizen” immigrants processed at the Southwest border said Middle Tennessee was their intended destination should they be released into the U.S., according to a letter from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The City of Franklin told News 2 it received the letter last fall; Metro Nashville also received the letter, according to a spokesperson.

In the letter, DHS wrote about its “longstanding practice” under Republican and Democratic Administrations of conditionally releasing noncitizens who have been fully screened and vetted, including those processed for expedited removal, those determined to have a credible fear, and those otherwise placed in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.

The letter said at the time of their initial encounters with DHS, 573 migrants reported that they would go to Middle Tennessee if they are released into the U.S. The majority of those immigrants were from Guatemala, Venezuela, Honduras, and Mexico, according to the letter.

The letter did not include details about a specific timeline, and DHS could not confirm whether the 573 migrants who listed Middle Tennessee as their intended destination would actually come to the area because the department does not help them travel to the destination, nor does it verify travel arrangements.

Some national and state lawmakers have expressed concerns over the record migrant surge and said it is contributing to the fentanyl crisis, among other issues.

“This is damaging our country from a national security standpoint, from a health standpoint, from a safety standpoint,” U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) said.

“The drugs, the crime, the coyotes that are making $5,000 a person to bring them in, and they’re using that to continue to grow their drug business,” Tennessee Sen. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) said.

Lisa Sherman Luna, executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), told News 2 the organization has been helping migrants from the border readjust in Middle Tennessee for years.

“The only thing that’s new about this is the coordination from the federal government, and that’s actually a welcome step in the right direction to ensure that organizations like ours can scale up our volunteers, collect donations, prepare for people’s arrival,” Luna said.

TIRRC also helps qualified migrants obtain their work permit, navigate through the immigration process, and reunite with loved ones.

“We have to remember that at the core of all of this are human beings who are just trying to seek a better life and protect their children and their families,” Luna said.

DHS wrote the migrants are subject to reporting requirements, and some may have to wear GPS monitoring devices as a part of the Alternatives to Detention program. While migrants generally have the freedom to move throughout the U.S., noncitizens equipped with ATD technology may be required to stay in a certain location. The department added nearly 95% of those enrolled in the ATD program return for their scheduled immigration hearing as required.

To read the full letter, click here.