The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Controversial Tennessee Sheriff Speaks At Hate Group Function

By Sonia Scherr on January 29, 2009 - 7:43 pm, Posted in Hate Groups

A Nashville, Tenn., sheriff who’s been criticized for his crackdown on undocumented immigrants recently spoke at a white supremacist gathering.

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall addressed the Middle Tennessee chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white nationalist hate group, at a dinner meeting last Nov. 22. Descended from the pro-segregationist White Citizens’ Councils (also known as the uptown Klan), the CCC has described blacks as a “retrograde species of humanity” and “genetically inferior,” compared pop singer Michael Jackson to an ape, and condemned “race-mixing.”

Hall’s appearance at the Middle Tennessee CCC meeting was reported in the latest issue of the Citizens Informer, the CCC’s in-house publication. “The meeting drew the largest attendance in 12 years, with many youth in attendance,” the newsletter noted.

Karla Weikal, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said the Middle Tennessee CCC asked Hall to talk to the group about his immigration enforcement program. She said Hall often speaks to private groups about issues related to the sheriff’s office and was not aware of the CCC’s racist beliefs. “Those views would certainly not be views that Sheriff Hall would support. Absolutely not,” Weikal said. “He went before that group to provide information about a program that the sheriff’s office participates in. Period. It was not an endorsement of this organization.”

But critics of the sheriff’s handling of immigration enforcement said Hall should have known better. “I am shocked that he would appear before such a group,” said Nashville immigration lawyer Elliott Ozment. “Any claim that he might make that he did not know the nature of this group is really no excuse. He has staff that should be checking out these things.”

Fellow Nashville immigration attorney Mario Ramos agreed. “For Sheriff Hall to be speaking in front of a hate group shows a severe lack of judgment,” he said. “I think the citizens of Nashville will be outraged that he spoke before this kind of group.” As for the sheriff’s professed ignorance of the group’s ideology, Ramos said, “It’s hard to believe [the sheriff’s office] is that naïve or unprofessional. You’d imagine they’d do their homework.”

Indeed, if Hall had merely typed “Council of Conservative Citizens” into the Internet search engine Google, the top result would have been the CCC’s web address and site description, which reads, “Advocating against minorities and racial integration.” The website proclaims that the CCC “oppose[s] all efforts to mix the races of mankind.” Along with ads for white pride T-shirts, the group’s homepage features numerous articles from its “news team” linking blacks to violent crime.

The group has also flirted increasingly with anti-Semitism in recent years; after Pope Benedict XVI provoked an outcry last week by revoking the excommunication of schismatic bishop Richard Williamson — who claimed no more than 300,000 Jews died in the Holocaust, none of them in gas chambers — the CCC asserted on its website that Williamson was not a Holocaust denier: “He has simply stated that the numbers [sic] of Jewish deaths have been exaggerated for political reasons.”

The CCC isn’t fond of non-white immigrants, either. It has accused them of turning America into “a slimy brown mass of glop.”

Hall, who became sheriff in 2002, has drawn fire for his immigration enforcement strategy. Since 2007, the county has participated in 287G, a program that gives local agencies limited authority to enforce federal immigration law. After a drunken driver — who was also an undocumented immigrant with a lengthy criminal history — killed a husband and wife in 2006, Hall wrote a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement asking to take part in the program. Hall said it would allow the county to target undocumented immigrants who are dangerous offenders.

But immigrant rights activists say that hasn’t happened. Instead, of the nearly 3,000 people arrested during the program’s first year, half were nabbed for minor traffic violations such as driving without a license, according to an April 2008 analysis by The Tennessean. Last July, a pregnant woman who had been arrested for careless driving was chained to a hospital bed as she gave birth. Juana Villegas’ story was featured prominently in The New York Times. (The sheriff later announced that pregnant women would no longer be shackled unless they posed a clear risk to themselves or others, The Tennessean reported.)

Sheriff’s office spokeswoman Weikal defended the immigration enforcement program, saying that Nashville police make all the arrests and that the sheriff’s office merely screens those who are foreign-born.

But Ozment, who represents Villegas, said he wasn’t surprised that the CCC wanted to know more about 287G. Both Ozment and Gregg Ramos, a Nashville attorney and civil rights advocate (no relation to Mario Ramos), said the program’s implementation in Davidson County has led to racial profiling of Hispanics. “It is open season on Hispanics in Nashville now,” Ozment said. (Ozment previously served on a council formed to advise the sheriff on 287G, but Hall kicked him off after Ozment said publicly that the council played no meaningful role.)

Added Mario Ramos: “I’m left to wonder where else he [Hall] has spoken. If he feels this is where the audience is for 287G, what a sad comment on 287G.”

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  • cynthia

    With all due respect, I believe this has been blown way out of proportion. Homeland Security is not a race issue and when Hall spoke to the group at the Piccadilly cafeteria, he states he did not know there views on the race issue. Sometimes we get too thin skinned and take things the wrong way. This issue is not about race, but rather an issue of criminal activities of the illegal immigrants. I believe everyone has the right to pursue happiness but not by criminal activity and being a danger to others.

  • Carter

    There is a difference between enforcing laws & aligning oneself w/ people who target one group of people for the majority of resources.

    Have you ever had a “speed trap” in your neighborhood? That’s an example of selective enforcement on a “agenda” oriented level. The cops writing tickets are getting money for their boss to make a new addition to the county or city buildings or getting extra money for new equipment. But the agenda still reflects a lack of fair distribution of the area’s LE resources. They could be out there distributing their resources on things like domestic violence, etc. But that’s lousy duty: writing tickets is easy & fast. It also yield good money per the amount of time involved.
    Catering to enforcement where illegal aliens are involved (or giving lip service to it) is [an attempt to] catering to a voting block. It’s easy & less legally risky than many other issues.There is less of this problem than there was some many years back. One of the biggest reasons is that the employers are being targeted as well!

    ICE has stats that indicate that the level of illegal boarder crossings are actually going down due to lack of jobs available here. Where once the day labour pool could demand $15 an hour, now, people are just not interested in pulling out that money. Less & less people are coming over.
    What’s more when an illegal gets detained they often go to a ICE detention center instead of the country lock-up. That’s real bad news, as they will sit there for about 6 months waiting for their consulate to get around to sending someone. Waiting for the Mexican Legal attache to show up is a long wait, I’d bet. The days of plane rides back to Mexico are over.
    Where a citizen can skate on a simple multiple shoplifting beef w/ O.R. & probation, an illegal can expect to do 6 months just as a warm-up. This is not uncommon in boarder states with fairly strong enforcement levels of repeat misdemeanor arrests. It most likely won’t happen in California but it happens in AZ , NM, & TX..
    A lot of people who work for ICE say we are going to see a great deal less illegal entry in the coming months or years due to a poor economy & a stiffening of consular obligations. In AZ there is a pretty big new holding facility in Florence for just this purpose.
    I have a feeling that the “illegal alien problem” will lessen of it’s own accord. Being in the country illegally is not a fun thing or a tasty meal ticket.
    The point being is that there is no reason to target them. They gave enough laws waiting for someone in that position to get caught.

    One thing I have noticed is that some people think that using the word “Mexican” is somehow derogatory. They substitute the word “Spanish”…..People w/ a Mexican ancestor are not from Europe. Spaniards are from Europe: Mexicans are from Mexico. Mexico may be a lot of things but it’s not Spain.

  • GENO the Shadow Wolf

    ‘We can’t thank you enough for all this free publicity in Tennessee.”

    Yeah sure pal, except for the fact that the “publicity” you were receiving is adamantly *negative*….
    Let me rephrase that for ya—i said NEGATIVE.
    The ‘publicity” that has brought your syndicated domestic terrorist group into the 15 minute of famed spotlight, does not neccessarily grant your hategroup exactly the kind of influence you were hoping for, but instead, it exposes the mentality, and the logics behind it, that is generally assoiciated with a typical hategroup such as the CCC. It informs the public of the sheer hypocrisies within the so called conservative based right-wing fringe nuts. And the folks you *claimed* are seeking membership as a result of this “publicity”, are the very same folks who are the usual suspects connected to white extreminisms and anti-Government militias. In given any case such as these, they usually are monitored by both the Federal Government and hatewatch groups nationwide.
    In hindsight, the “publicity” is nothing to be excited about. That would be a idiotic to begin with.

  • daemonesslisa

    And anyway, if ‘god’ doesn’t look at skin color, then why should he look at nationality and language? Is ‘god’ a nationalist now? This is what happens when people bring religion (superstition) into the argument.

  • MdeG

    Paulette, It’s good to have a common language. It’s also good for people to have a way of learning it. Many don’t; I tutor ESL, and there are loads of legal immigrants who have not had time or money to study. A green card doesn’t give you automatic fluency.

    As for coming to join us legally, it’s near-impossible for some people. If you have relatives here, a university degree, special talents, or wealth, you can get here. Being European doesn’t hurt any, either. This doesn’t mean it’s easy. A couple of my relatives recently arrived — it takes years of waiting and thousands of dollars to get here legally.

    If you’re not rich or educated, the application fees alone are way beyond you. If you make $5 a day, how are you going to come up with a $900 and whatever it is to file the application? Not to mention several hundred for the medical exam. And if you do manage to get your paperwork together and filed, you have to wait years and your chances of success are riduculously low — I mean under 1%.

    Our legal system is an arcane, crazy mess. It’s really exclusionary — and yes, it is biassed against non-white people — and it doesn’t work very well. It needs to be reformed.

    As for “Borders,” I’m not so convinced. Those silly walls offend our neighbors a whole lot more efficiently than they keep undesirables out.

    I don’t think Americanness is defined by exclusion. It’s been a shifting and evolving identity, and that’s just fine. The people who worry about undocumented folks now are using the same set of attitudes as the folks who said “No Irish need apply” to my great-grandmother, or who told my Italian-American stepmother she “wasn’t really white.”

  • paulette

    Borders, Language and Culture are the backbone of America. When those features are obliterated or blurred to become meaningless, we have lost our American-ness. Immigrants are welcome when they arrive legally. It’s not about me not being very brown and another is. My brown just fades in the winter. Don’t play the race card. Be a person of integrity and honesty, hard working and fighting for truth, not your way of thinking. We need Borders. We need our Culture. We need our Language. It is who we are. Come join us, legally. God doesn’t look on our skin color as much as He sees in our hearts. What does He see inside your heart? Remember the first commandment and the second like unto it.

  • Fred

    gee I guess enforceing all of our laws is real hate now!

  • loren

    I’m sorry. If he is from the south, he is perfectly aware of these groups and what they stand for. Now that this is a major story, it is time for politicians of all stripes to stand up and condemn organization, such as this one.

  • tyrone mixon

    The more people that go c of cc well see just how crazy you people are. Good luck

  • Kyle Rogers

    My name is Kyle Rogers. I’m a member of the CofCC board of directors and part of the cofcc.org website staff. We can’t thank you enough for getting us all this free publicity in Tennessee!

    I was blown away when MSNBC.com picked up the story.

    The past week has been among the top five weeks for website traffic and new members in the history of cofcc.org.

    Keep up the good work. Get us more publicity!

    Thanks,
    Kyle Rogers

  • tyrone mixon

    So we are to believe that people go and speak in front of a group that they no nothing about. Look, do what you want but do think that people are stupid. Now the people know what their sheriff is about.

  • GENO the Shadow Wolf

    This is a classic example of denying, by pretending to claim that you “knew nothing about the group`s beliefs.”
    With relevance to intelligence–
    Law enforcement officials(whether you’re a “Sheriff” or not) are the most informed group of individuals in this Nation. They are the first to be updated on suspected hategroups and domestic terrorists within white extremist functions such as the CCC. who seek to exand their criminal enterprise by targetting Hispanic Americans through juxatposing them in the catagory of “illegal aliens”. As a result, many law abiding Hispanic Anericans become the target of a reported hatecrime.
    The Sheriff offices have the necessary resources to be *informed*. And I see no valid excuse to make claims that you “knew nothing about the hategroup`s beliefs”.
    This also includes identifying and recognizing various “hategroups” both locally and nationally. Otherwise, what of kind of a “Sheriff” are you when you know nothing(or very little) about the groups you are giving a speech to as a “Sheriff”??? This one doesn’t sound much like an experienced “Sheriff” to me. He reminds me of the notorious aging lawman(Sheriff) Joe Arpaio the most hated (Sheriff) in AZ.

    You’re either a rogue cop or you’re not a cop at all.

  • Carter

    HooooooWeee….Sounds like this boy saw the word “Conservative” & assumed he was talking to the Country-Club crowd.
    A Sheriff is a politician first, last & always. And folks on the far ends of the political spectrum are usually not a huge voting block.
    …Talk about shooting yourself in the foot with a scoped rifle….The Sheriff is supposed to be the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of a County & as such they should always be wary of aligning themselves with an agenda-oriented group or he may have to enforce laws that decry their stated beliefs. This in turn makes active voters out of the couch-potato, arm-chair experts.
    From a political perspective, this was a “no-win” move; & a bad decision. It seems he didn’t do his homework on this one – or maybe the dog eat it.