The sheriff's office in Davidson County, Tennessee, accused of abusing immigrants' rights, announced Tuesday that it will not renew its much-criticized 287(g) agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Sheriff Daron Hall, whose jurisdiction includes Nashville, the state capital, said his department's participation in 287(g) will end in October.
Under 287(g), sheriff's deputies are required to verify the immigration status of people detained for other offenses who they suspect are in the country illegally.
The Davidson County Sheriff's office processed more than 10,000 immigrants since signing up with 287(g) in 2007, resulting in thousands of deportations.
Hall told the media that under 287(g) there was an 80 percent reduction in the incidence of undocumented immigrants among people arrested in Nashville, adding, "I believe its success is the reason we can sit here today and say it is no longer needed."
A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center revealed that the majority of immigrants detected by 287(g) were arrested for minor offenses like driving without a license.
One of the most egregious cases was that of Juana Villegas, who was nine months pregnant when she was stopped for a traffic violation on July 3, 2008, and taken to the Davidson County Jail where her immigration status was checked under 287(g).
Two days later at Nashville General Hospital, bound hand and foot, she gave birth to her son Gael under the watchful gaze of sheriff's deputies.
Organizations like the ACLU and the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, who fought for five years to have the program abolished, welcomed Hall's announcement.
"We hope that this announcement begins a new era in which all residents of Nashville are treated equally, whatever the color of their skin or their ethnicity, and consonant with our reputation as an inclusive city that welcomes everyone," Hedy Weinberg, exective director of the ACLU of Tennessee, said.
For its part, TIRRC called the sheriff's decision a "victory" for the movement fighting for immigrants' rights.
"Sheriff Hall has had a hand in separating thousands of immigrant families for no other crime than fishing or driving without a license, a costly and dangerous diversion of law enforcement resources," TIRRC Executive Director Stephen Fotopulos said.
Still pending is the Tennessee Supreme Court ruling on a lawsuit alleging that the Davidson County Sheriff's office participation in 287(g) violated the county charter.