Knox Co. Sheriff, public discuss controversial immigration program

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)-- Dozens of people packed the Knox County Health Department's auditorium Tuesday evening to discuss a controversial immigration program.

Knox County Sheriff J.J. Jones held a meeting about the 287(g) program that could allow deputies to act as immigration agents.

"Our concern is that children are already being told 'I may not come home form work today' by their parents. If that's already a concern…this will be a living nightmare," said Lourdes Garza with the Diocese of Knoxville.

Sheriff Jones told the crowd, "If you are a law abiding citizen and you don't break the law, you will never know 287(g) exists. You will never come in contact with it unless you break the law."

He also addressed racial profiling.

"The color of someone's skin matters not…not one bit. There hasn't been anyone arrested because of their skin color," Sheriff Jones said.

Andrea Uriarte told Local 8 News there are too many questions and no guarantees.

"He cannot speak for every single individual," she said about Sheriff Jones and whether officers would not act upon suspicion. "He cannot be in control for everything. I believe his intentions are good. I just can't take his word entirely."

Currently, there are 39 law enforcement agencies partnered with ICE in 19 states.

Sheriff Jones said a decision will be made soon.

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