Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ground-breaking "Appalachian Ellis Island" legislation introduced in TN House of Representatives

Country music legend and junior Representative team up to reframe immigrant laws

Today is New American Day on the Hill

Country music legend William Walker and House Rep. James LaFleur have joined up to co-author legislation that is somewhat atypical of the way state lawmakers have approached immigrants and their immigration status in recent years. Walker's and LaFleur's request to extend the legislative filing deadline is on the agenda of the Rules and Sense committee at 10:00 a.m. today, which meets in Legislative Plaza Room 19-74.

The legislative package, dubbed "The Appalachian Ellis Island" by its growing number of supporters, features the following proposals:
  • A specialty license plate for the "Appalachian Ellis Island" slogan. The image will be designed by contest. The additional $70 fee will be waived because Walker is assigning the profits from his "Gone Back on Your Raisin" tour to the Department of Transportation.
  • In-state tuition for every resident of Tennessee, period. "I have more horse sense than book sense," said Walker, "but it seems to me when the National Merit Scholar who's lived next door to me for ten years and the Valedictorian across the street from Rep. La Fleur who's lived there for seven years come knocking on MTSU's and UT's doorsteps, respectively, there's no other appropriate response than, "Ain't that the berries!"
  • Drivers' licenses regardless of legal status. LaFleur said that any legislator opposing this proposal should be forced to put this bumper sticker on his or her car: "I was the one who took away the car insurance from that uninsured driver who hit you." LaFleur said he is also troubled by the fact that law enforcement is sometimes unable to identify people because of the unavailability of identification.
  • A one-year statute of limitations for any state or local treatment or processing of a person due to federal immigration status. Walker said, "I've done a lot of bad things in my life, but as long as I'm not a murderer, the government can't chase me forever. Why should working without a visa on the Nashville Symphony's building be punishable for a coon's age when the folks who pirate their CDs and download their world-famous music for free are off the hook before the ink has dried on the hard drive?" In a rare moment of disagreement with Walker, LaFleur said, "He**, are we asking the metermaids to enforce tax laws now? Why are we even talking about this? Make the statute of limitations 1 day and then at least you'll be chronologically closer to understanding the supremacy clause."
  • Increased funding for state employment law enforcement. "This is a no-brainer," says LaFleur. "If you go after everyone who's taking shortcuts with employees, you'll be busy as a stump-tailed cow in fly time, but at least you'll be shaping up the employers for the benefit of every employee in Tennessee." Walker added, "I could have used this when I was waiting tables before I signed with the label - and probably after, too."
  • A moratorium on local government proposals targeting immigrants as a class. LaFleur explained the proposal, telling the Hispanic Nashville Notebook, "We say we're accepting of legal immigrants, but the number of pro-immigrant laws and resolutions out there are as scarce as hen's teeth."
  • Adjusting state funds downward for any locality that uses 287(g) to go beyond dangerous criminals. LaFleur said, "If you have such an abundance of resources that you can process and house people for piddly stuff, let's have another look at how much of the state's money heads your way."
  • A multilingual resolution to be translated into every language currently spoken in Tennessee, as determined by the U.S. census. The resolution would read, "You're welcome here. When you saw the 'welcome' sign on the highway or at the airport, we meant it, and we'll tell you in your own language, too." The Tennessee Historical Awareness Society will create a web site and brochures containing the resolution, to be illustrated with historic images from the immigrant communities in Tennessee's past and the printed communications they had in other languages besides English.
  • Required time sitting in the dunking booth at Oktoberfest, Celebration of Cultures, or the Australian Festival for anyone who votes against the above measures.
If you've read this far, Happy April Fool's Day.

The real news is that today is New American Day on the Hill, a lobbying effort of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC).

TIRRC details the current Tennessee legislative session's negative immigrant-related proposals here. TIRRC supports these positive bills.

Photo by Joey Rozier. Licensed under Creative Commons.

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