Tennessee State Immigration Laws
Traditionally the doctrine of preemption prevented states from making laws having to do with immigration. The federal government had the sole authority in these matters. In recent years, however, state laws affecting immigrants have become increasingly common. A range of different approaches have developed, with some cities and states offering refuge to undocumented immigrants and others seeking to cooperate with federal efforts to identify and deport undocumented immigrants.
Welcome to FindLaw's coverage of existing Tennessee legislation and rules related to individuals' immigration status. Below you will find information on what, if any, rules Tennessee has regarding immigration checks by law enforcement, educational institutions, and employers, as well as the existence of E-Verify requirements, restrictions on public benefits based on an individual's immigration status, and more.
Law Enforcement and Immigration in Tennessee
Officials at city and county jails in Tennessee are required to report anyone who may be in violation of federal immigration laws to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities.
Enforcement agencies are required to contact federal immigration officials if they can't verify legal status of arrestees within three days.
As part of the 287(g) ICE ACCESS Program, officials with the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Davidson County Sheriff's Office cooperate with federal authorities in enforcing immigration law.
Under a federal program called "Secure Communities," all arrestees are fingerprinted and run through a federal database which checks their criminal record and immigration status.
State officials may deny, suspend or revoke the business license of employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants.
Also, refer to federal employment eligibility verification rules and the requirements for Form I-9.
Tennessee E-Verify Requirements
All employers in the state with six (6) or more employees are required to verify employment eligibility using E-Verify. Employers also are required to maintain records of all E-Verify results.
Driver's License/ID Requirements
Proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residence is required for obtaining a driver's license or state ID.
Public Benefits Restrictions
Under federal law, illegal immigrants are prohibited from receiving most public benefits. However, they are allowed to receive emergency services, health care and other programs that have been deemed "necessary to protect life and safety."
Voting ID Rules
Valid and current photo identification required to vote. Examples include a Tennessee driver's license, a valid photo ID issued by any state, a U.S. passport or valid U.S. military ID with photo. Those without a photo ID may vote via provisional ballot as long as they return within two days with a photo ID or sign an affidavit.
Housing Ordinances and Immigration
- Know Your Rights - Guide to protecting yourself and your family during immigration raids (PDF, CASA of Maryland and other organizations).
- Immigration to Tennessee - Resources for immigrants to Tennessee (U.S. Immigration Support).
- Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition - Advocacy group for immigrants in Tennessee (in English, Spanish and Chinese).
Get a Free Initial Case Assessment
The immigration laws are notoriously complicated and the consequences of a wrong decision can be catastrophic. A legal professional can help plan your immigration process carefully, taking into consideration your individual needs. Contact a local attorney for a free initial case assessment to discuss your concerns and get information about your options.