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Tennessee State Capitol downtown Nashville. Photo by Ricky Rogers (The Tennessean)

We have to hand it to the Tennessee General Assembly: Our lawmakers really know how to make nothing out of nothing and into more nothing.

The bill legislators just passed to ban sanctuary cities in the Volunteer State is a case in point.

There is nothing to ban. There are no sanctuary cities in Tennessee. What's more, there is no real way to enforce a provision of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Jay Reedy, R-Erin, that would deny state economic and community grants to towns and cities that have so-called "sanctuary city policies."

We're guessing that those "policies" might include any disinclination of a police department to stop and frisk people who look Hispanic just to see if they have documentation.

In other words, those policies might be pretty much anything that isn't hard and cruel to immigrants here.

In talking about his bill a few weeks ago, Reedy told a story of his youth in Idaho and repeatedly slurred Latinos and Hispanics by using a term generally understood to refer to undocumented workers who arrived in the United States after swimming across the Rio Grande.

But how would Tennessee determine that a city or town isn't tough enough on its immigrant population? Such "policies" most often are not written city and town resolutions. They are attitudes. Attitudes like: Do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Tennessee's ban — which can still be vetoed by Gov. Bill Haslam — is just a bill pushing a meaner attitude with a bully stick. Would cities have to have display signs with Reedy-like slurs — no wetbacks allowed — to prove their "tough" attitudes and thus be eligible for grants?

What it boils down to is a frightened bunch of white guys huffing and puffing that they are trying to protect everyone. They're actually protecting no one. Rather, they are encouraging divisiveness — which makes our state less safe.

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