Could a speeding ticket escalate into a deportation proceeding?

Although no one likes to get a speeding ticket and pay a fine, drivers who are uncertain about their immigration status may face a much more serious consequence: deportation.

According to records from the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, discretionary arrests of immigrants who do not have a driver’s license may result in unwanted attention from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. After a criminal defendant is brought to jail and fingerprinted, his or her information is automatically shared with ICE officials. At least 127 of those arrests led to investigations by ICE officials.

In Tennessee, driving without a license is a criminal offense. However, an individual who applies for a driver’s license must show proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residence. Nor does Tennessee offer a driver certificate for undocumented immigrants, like California and Illinois. Consequently, an undocumented immigrant may have to risk driving without a license in order to maintain a job or attend to family obligations.

In a two-year period between 2014 and 2017, Nashville police charged over 9,700 Hispanic drivers for driving without a driver’s license. Notably, there is some police discretion involved in whether an individual driving without a license will be cited and/or arrested. Officials claim they are not making arrests based upon an individual’s perceived immigration status.

Yet our Tennessee immigration law firm questions whether police offers are given guidelines or training in how to apply their discretion when they discover an individual is driving without a valid driver’s license. If you have concerns about this issue or are facing deportation, make sure you have an experienced immigration attorney to fight for your rights.

Source:, “How traffic stops lead to deportation for some Nashville immigrants,” Ariana Maia Sawyer, March 23, 2017