Illegal Immigration: Hands Tied For Morristown Police

By: Rob Pratt
By: Rob Pratt

Hamblen County (WVLT) -- It's a federal program designed to help local police deal with the growing problem of illegal immigration.

It may sound perfect for a place like Morristown, where over the last few years there has been an explosion of growth in the illegal population.

But for the largest town between Knoxville and the Tri-Cities, it's not going to happen.

The reason?

Morristown leaders want local police to have the power to enforce immigration laws themselves; something the federal government thinks would overwhelm the system.

There is a sign on the edge of town that welcomes all, but some in Morristown have heard of signs of a different kind in some towns nearly a thousand of miles away.

"I have heard certain rumors, I am not sure if they are true or not, that there are signs in Mexico saying 'Come to Morristown, Tennessee'," said resident Terry Long. "I guess that's possible."

Trains may come and go through town, but illegal immigration is proving to be a locomotive with a full head of steam.

There are no census number to back it up, but in Hamblen County, the Hispanic population is estimated at between 12 and 20 percent.

"If I were in their situation, I would be doing the same thing to provide for my family," said Rob Walters, another Morristown resident, "but illegal immigration is illegal and it has to be dealt with at some point."

To some, it seems that dealing with it would be easier if local officers were given the power to enforce immigration laws.

That was the reason the city wanted to train two officers to start the deportation process for accused criminals without having to rely on overworked federal agents.

In outlining why Morristown would not be a part of the program, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office said that the regional immigration office in Knoxville was not equipped to handle transportation of more detained illegals than they currently experience.

Further, the immigration office said it does not have manpower to supervise local officers.

According to Morristown's police chief, whether there is a program or not, there is only so much that the police can do.

"If you are driving down the road, I can not legally stop you to see if you have legal residence status in the United States," said Chief Roger Overholt.

The chief also said he has been told that the policy remains the same; police should still contact federal immigration agents when they make arrests of illegals, even if they will probably not be deported.

We want to know what you think.

Is ICE doing enough to find and deport illegals?

You can vote in the poll on the home page of

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  • by Rose Location: Morristown TN on Oct 4, 2008 at 08:47 PM
    I dont think its right that they are being deported they are just like us they have the same right as we do they were made the same way we was they aint legal just cause they dont have a green card if it wasnt for them just think we would have the fruits,vegetables,or anything cause americans are to lazy to do that stuff you dont never see a white man out here picking tomatoes do you why cant people leave them alone they have feelings to! I dont see what the big deal is!! They are just trying to raise there familys just like we are!! God created them to they might not have the same language or skin but god dont look at them different then he does us!! Think about it
  • by t on Mar 7, 2008 at 09:39 PM
    need to vote all those representative and mayors out of office in hamblen county and the city. all they want to do is sell all the property to the illegals for a big kickback to put in there pockets. the more we give the illegals the more they'll take this county need change in government these people have been in there to long
  • by Dee Location: Morristown on Feb 4, 2008 at 09:45 PM
    It's a sad state of affairs when an illegal immigrant who doesn't speak our language, pay our taxes or have to work for a living can get free medical care, get and use a food stamp car, dress better than I can, and then go out and unload their hundreds of dollars worth of groceries into a brand new car! My parents can't even afford to go to the doctor even with medicaid or medicare but we hand everything that THEY worked for all of their lives over to illegals who not only come here expecting it to be handed to them but throw it up in our face. After all these years, why is it suddenly OK for people to come here illegally and get away with it? Put the deportation enforcement into the hands of the public and see how many of us volunteer to drive the busses and buy the gas to get them back on the other side of the fence!
  • by don Location: morristown tn. on Dec 11, 2007 at 11:17 AM
    Come to Rich's in west industries park and see all the illegals that are making your cakes who doesn't washed their hands and sneezes on the cake lines i't's like mexico city want to go to mexico come to Rich's
  • by mike Location: morristown on Nov 12, 2007 at 06:25 PM
    Why do they get everthing free ,food stamps,rent.If you are a us citizen down on your luck to bad ,no help in sight for us.Help
  • by green cardist Location: east tennessee on Nov 12, 2007 at 12:35 AM
    The illegal immigration is not the fault of the illegals themselves. They come because they believe it's better here than where they are. If we were in the same position we would do the same. They come because they can find work and support that is better than they have. The way to stop illegal immigration is to deny them the ability to provide for themselves and cut them off from state aid. They don't get food stamps if the state employees are doing their job. And if employers were penalized heavily for employing illegals, the problems would shrink. The problem is also that here in Tennessee you can be hired and fired on a whim, and there is no employee protection worth a wood nickel. And even so, it's still better than it is in Mexico. And the people who want to see cheap labor will still justify employing illegals because they don't have to provide any benefits, pay any taxes, and can employ people at a fraction of minimum wage.
  • by DinTN Location: Tennessee on Oct 31, 2007 at 02:51 PM
    The Federal government is NOT going to handle the problem later any more than they do now! Especially if Hillaritta or Obamanation win the White House! Open border amnesty nuts! Paul / Tancredo in '08!
  • by Thom Location: Andersonville on Oct 25, 2007 at 02:45 PM
    How hard can it be to transport a few illegals? Just make more trips.
  • by Bill on Oct 25, 2007 at 11:42 AM
    Start shooting 'em and watch how fast they beat feet back to Mexico. It's going to happen anyway. Might as well start now.
  • by DinTN Location: Middle Tennessee on Oct 25, 2007 at 10:42 AM
    You better find a way before it's too late! Know the saying "Find yourself in a hole the last thing you want to do is keep on digging!" Wait until your road signs are printed in Spanish....and your kids come home from school with Mexican flags! RON PAUL / TOM TANCREDO IN '08!
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