Policy Update | July 1, 2017: More Deportations, More Resistance

Policy Update | July 1, 2017

Since inauguration day, the president has been carrying out his draconian campaign promises of mass deportations. In the first 100 days of the administration, immigration arrests were already up nearly 40% over the previous year. Across the country, and here in Tennessee, ICE has been terrorizing communities and separating families.

But, the president isn't alone in his work to build up a deportation force. This week, we've seen the many ways that Tennessee elected officials are making it easier for the federal government to carry out mass deportations. Check out our policy update below.

It will be a summer of resistance as we fight for immigrants' right to remain in Tennessee (and their right to come here in the first place). Will you join us?

Tennessee Attorney General Launches Attack on DACA

On Thursday, AG Herbert Slatery joined 9 attorneys general and a governor in sending a letter to the Trump administration with an ultimatum: end the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by September 5th or they'll sue. 

It is shameful that the attorney general has put Tennessee at the forefront of the anti-immigrant movement, fighting to put 8000 young Tennesseans in the deportation pipeline. But, immigrant youth are here to stay - and ready to fight for DACA. 

From leading campaigns to pass the DREAM Act, to stop the deportation of students, and for tuition equality, immigrant youth in Tennessee have built a powerful coalition of their friends and classmates, educators, business leaders, and more. This summer, we'll be bringing coalition partners together in a statewide campaign to #DefendDACA.

Sign up to join the campaign to #DefendDACA
and spread the word! 

Read more in our press statement.

Knox County Sheriff Approved for 287(g), Deputies Officially Join Deportation Force

In one of his first executive orders, the president made clear that he would need local law enforcement to join his deportation force. The Knox County Sheriff, J.J. Jones, wasted no time. In March, we learned that he had applied for a 287(g) agreement, hoping that his employees would be able to help with mass deportations in Knox County. This week, we learned that Trump administration approved his application. 

The 287(g) program is a formal agreement between local jurisdictions and the federal government that deputizes local law enforcement as immigration agents. 

Sheriff J.J. Jones has a troubling record of civil rights violations, including pledging to "stack [immigrants] like cordwood" in his jails. That Knox County will acting as federal immigration enforcement agents is devastating news for all residents of Knox County, especially immigrant families who will be living under unthinkable fear of their local law enforcement. All residents suffer when critical law enforcement resources are diverted to separating families and public safety is undermined by eroded trust between immigrants and police. 

While the program won't formally go into effect for a few months, our work to ensure the disastrous program is short-lived in Knox County begins today. We'll be working with our members and partners to monitor Sheriff Jones and his deputies, defend the rights of residents, and make sure that no other county follows Knox's lead by applying for 287(g). Stay tuned for ways you can take action! 

Tennessee Members of Congress Advance Trump's Anti-Immigrant Legislation

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed two laws that make it easier for the president to carry out his vision of mass deportations. The day before, the president hosted a roundtable urging lawmakers to support both bills. Unfortunately, the Tennessee delegation overwhelmingly voted to advance both bills.

H.R. 3003 - Anti-Sanctuary City Bill
This bill punishes cities that pass common-sense policies to promote public safety by keeping local law enforcement out of federal immigration enforcement. More here.

Voting Yes: Black, Blackburn, DesJarlais, Duncan, Fleischmann, Kustoff, Roe
Voting No: Cohen, Cooper

H.R. 3004 - Criminalizing Immigrants, Fueling Detention
This bill expands the government's ability to prosecute people who re-enter the country, including those fleeing violence and reuniting with their family, further criminalizes immigrants, and removes due process protections. More here.

Voting Yes: Black, Blackburn, Cooper, DesJarlais, Duncan, Fleischmann, Kustoff, Roe
Voting No: Cohen

We're watching Congress and tracking how our representatives vote on every anti-immigrant bill this year. Check out this infographic which shows their record to date. 

Punitive Anti-Immigrant Tennessee Law Goes Into Effect Today

Earlier this year, the Tennessee legislature passed one of the country's most punitive anti-immigrant laws, which goes into effect today. 

Public Chapter 492 grants Tennessee's courts the ability to impose harsher sentences on defendants for any offense, solely based on whether they are "illegally or unlawfully" in the U.S. This is the first law of its kind in the country.  Other states have attempted to enact similar legislation to criminalize people based on their status, but they have been struck down by the courts. We'll be monitoring the implementation of this new law and exploring our legal options. If you or someone you know might be affected by this law and is arrested, charged, or convicted after July 1st, 2017 for any crime, including misdemeanors, please call our hotline at 615-414-1030. 

Keeping Nashville Out of the Deportation Business

As the Trump administration increasingly relies on local governments to carry out mass deportations, cities across the country are adopting policies to protect residents, restore trust in their communities, and ensure local resources aren't used to separate families.

City council members in Nashville have demonstrated tremendous leadership and courage by introducing a set of policies to draw a bright line between city agencies and federal immigration enforcement. TIRRC and 18 other local organizations joined together for the #NashvilleTogether campaign to support the passage of the ordinances. As you read in our last email, the ordinances were withdrawn and won't be going before council for a final vote next Thursday.

Although BL-739 won't be voted on next week, Nashville families aren't giving up! Here's how you can help:


Attorney General Slatery Launches Cruel Attack on 8000+ Youth

For Immediate Release

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Nashville -  Today, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery joined 9 attorneys general and a governor in sending a letter to the Trump administration with an ultimatum: end the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or they'll sue. The letter comes just weeks after the program's five year anniversary. Slatery and the other signatories give the president until September 5th, 2017 to formally rescind the program or they'll challenge DACA in court. 

Since the program's inception five years ago, the lives of more than 8000 young immigrants in Tennessee have been transformed. Thousands more will be eligible to apply in the future if the program remains intact. With DACA, youth are protected from deportation and are authorized to work in the U.S. The DACA program has been incredibly successful, creating opportunities for immigrant youth to more fully participate in and contribute to their communities. Terminating DACA would have detrimental effects on immigrant families, our communities, and our economy. Without DACA, 8000+ Tennesseans would lose their ability to work, and businesses across the state would have to hire and train new employees to fill positions left vacant by DACA recipients.  According to the CATO institute, the economic and fiscal impact of repealing DACA would result in a 60 billion loss in federal revenue plus $280 billion reduction in economic growth over the next 10 years.

DACA, applicants must meet all of the following to qualify: under 16 when they arrived in the U.S; lived in the U.S. continuously for at least five years; graduated from high school, received a GED or currently be enrolled in an education program; arrived before June 15, 2007 and was 31 years old or younger in 2012; demonstrate a clean criminal record; submit a lengthy application, undergo biometric screening, pay a fee of $465; and renew every two years.

Attorney General Slatery was one of 26 attorneys general who sued the Obama administration to block the 2014 program for parents of U.S. citizens and green card holders (DAPA) and the expansion of the 2012 DACA program. The 2014 programs, which would have benefited an estimated 38,000 people in Tennessee, were enjoined by a federal judge as the lawsuit stalled in court. On June 15th, President Trump formally rescinded the 2014 memo which created the programs. According to the letter sent today, if the Trump administration doesn't rescind the 2012 DACA program by the deadline, they will expand the existing lawsuit to challenge DACA. 

 The following is a quote from Cesar Bautista, TIRRC Youth Organizer:

 "It is shameful that Attorney General (AG) Slatery would join forces with other extremist AGs to launch an attack on DACA recipients like me. But we won't give up. For years, we've built a powerful coalition of educators, employers, friends, and family. We will organize across the state to defend the program. Tennessee is our home, and we will not let our own Attorney General help deport us. We are here to stay. " 

The following is a quote from Jazmin Ramirez, Vice President, TIRRC Board of Directors

"I can't understand why Attorney General Slatery is trying to put young Tennesseans like me into the deportation pipeline. We fought too hard for the DACA program, and it's been too successful - we won't let extremists like AG Slatery take it away. We will defend DACA and  protect youth from deportations - but we won't stop there. We will fight for our families, too. This is our home. We are part of Tennessee, and we won't give up."


To join the fight to defend DACA, sign the petition here


Nashville Together Ordinances Clear First Hurdle

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Nashville -  Tonight in a voice vote, the Nashville Metro Council passed two ordinances, BL-739 and BL-743, that were filed by Council Member At-Large Bob Mendes and District 17 Council Member Colby Sledge. Together, the ordinances draw a bright line between the work of local government and federal immigration enforcement and ensure the city isn't helping carry out mass deportation. Tonight's vote was the first hurdle for the ordinances, which will be up for the second of three votes on June 20th. 

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) is leading the Nashville Together campaign to organize immigrants, refugees, and their neighbors in support of this legislation. Over 80 immigrant community members, faith leaders, and supporting organizations came out to city hall for the first vote, demonstrating the growing, broad support across Nashville. 

Since January 2017, the Trump administration has increasingly blurred the lines between city services and federal immigration enforcement. This has had a chilling effect on immigrant families accessing critical services and participating in the city. Recognizing that the cooperation of immigration communities and public agencies is critical to fulfilling the mission of the city, BL-739 seeks to clarify the roles and responsibility of our local government to reassure residents and encourage participation in public life and cooperation with city agencies. The second ordinance, BL-743, could bring an end to the use of Davidson County jail as an immigrant detention center. The sheriff's office currently detains immigrants that are picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from within and outside of the county for civil immigration violations. 

The following is a quote from Dulce Castro, a TIRRC member who lives in District 7:

"Every day, I am worried and scared for my undocumented parents as they commute to work. I wonder if it will be the last time I see them, and who will take care of my 10 year-old sister, a U.S. citizen, and myself. But, today, I feel hopeful and optimistic that Metro Council has taken this first step to protect immigrant families like mine. While we still have more hurdles to overcome, I am encouraged to see many more immigrant residents joining our campaign, engaging with their local government, and fighting for their families. I hope other communities across Tennessee will follow our example." 

The following is a quote from Abdil Nasir Gedi, a TIRRC member who lives in District 13:

"As black immigrants from a predominantly Muslim country, my community is discriminated against three times over. Since January, we've seen Somali communities across the U.S. being targeted by over-policing, immigration raids, and deportations. For Somalis, deportations are a death sentence. Here in Nashville, Somali families are fearful and anxious about their future, but today, I am happy that Metro Council took the first step to protect immigrant communities. While there is still a lot to do to address discrimination and inequality, I am proud to support the Nashville Together campaign so my community can feel a little bit more secure. These ordinances make us feel a little safer engaging with public agencies without the fear of being separated from our loved ones."

The following is a quote from Stephanie Teatro, Co-Executive Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC):

"In an era of mass deportations, its critical that our city update and clarify our policies to protect immigrant residents, restore trust in city agencies, and uphold our values. It's fitting that the council considered these ordinances while voting on the city budget. We need to ensure local resources are directed towards local priorities like transit, education, and affordable housing -- not separating Nashville families. While we still have a long way to go, we are encouraged by the support we've received from members of Metro Council and the broad-based coalition organizing in support of the policies."

To learn more about the ordinances visit here.


We're Going to Court to Defend Refugee Resettlement

Tennessee Groups Take Legal Action Against Efforts to Block Refugee Resettlement  

JUNE 2, 2017

JACKSON, Tenn. — Groups serving Tennessee refugees are taking legal action against the state legislature’s efforts to block refugee resettlement.

State lawmakers who oppose refugee resettlement sued the federal government in March, contending that the federal refugee resettlement program improperly impinges on state sovereignty. The Tennessee attorney general previously declined to file the suit, concluding it would likely lose in court.

The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Tennessee represent the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Bridge Refugee Services Inc., and the Nashville International Center for Empowerment, which are seeking to intervene in the case to defend refugee resettlement in Tennessee. The groups also filed legal arguments explaining why the General Assembly’s lawsuit should be thrown out.

The following are quotes from:

Stephanie Teatro, Co-Executive Director, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition:

“For too many years, the Tennessee legislature has put our state at the forefront of the anti-refugee movement, seeking to erode support for the resettlement program for political gain. This extreme lawsuit is a betrayal of our state’s values, and if successful, would cause real harm to our refugee members who already call Tennessee home and to their family members abroad who can’t wait to be resettled here and reunited with their loved ones. We are so proud to represent our many members across the state in defense of the life-saving work of refugee resettlement, to stand up for our values as Tennesseans, and to ensure that Tennessee continues to be a place where families fleeing violence and persecution can find safety and opportunity.”

Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director, ACLU of Tennessee:

“By insisting on filing a fear-driven and dangerous lawsuit that targets vulnerable families and selecting a legal group known for its radical anti-Muslim ideology to represent the General Assembly, Tennessee legislators have laid their cards on the table. The actions of these politicians betray the values of fair treatment, equality, and compassion that Tennesseans embrace. We are intervening in this lawsuit to resist this cruel attempt to stop the resettlement of refugees in Tennessee — which is fueled by discrimination and animus toward Muslims that extends to the White House. The majority of Tennesseans believe in helping those fleeing violence and terror to protect their families. With our partners, the ACLU is committed to making clear that these kinds of malicious attacks on our Muslim neighbors have no place in Tennessee.”

Susan Speraw, Chair, Board of Directors, Bridge Refugee Services Inc.:

“The people of Tennessee have welcomed refugees as their neighbors and friends, hired refugees and valued their work, patronized businesses started by refugee entrepreneurs, and celebrated with refugees who have become citizens. We are seeking to intervene in this lawsuit because we believe that resettlement is more than a job — as human beings, it is our obligation to protect the dignity of all and mitigate the suffering of vulnerable people.”

Dov Hirsch, Chair, Board of Directors, Nashville International Center for Empowerment:

“Refugee support services are critical to building and enriching Nashville’s inclusive climate — creating prosperous businesses, organizations, institutions, and communities. The Nashville International Center for Empowerment has delivered vital support to immigrants and refugees in Middle Tennessee for more than a decade. This suit, if successful, would effectively eliminate our ability to assist the most vulnerable populations of newly arrived refugees, and would weaken our thriving community.”


The legal documents are here:




Nashville Files Landmark Bill to Keep City Agencies Out of Deportations


Friday, May 26, 2017
Contact: Stephanie Teatro | 615.498.8847 |



TIRRC Launches Nashville Together Campaign
Legislation filed in Metro Council to keep city agencies out of deportations


Nashville -  Today, an ordinance was filed in the Nashville Metro Council by Council Member At-Large Bob Mendes and District 17 Council Member Colby Sledge to draw a bright line between the work of local government and federal immigration enforcement, restoring trust and cooperation between the city and Nashville's immigrant residents. The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) is leading the Nashville Together campaign to organize immigrants, refugees, and their neighbors in support of the legislation.


The ordinance comes in response to the tremendous wave of fear and anxiety that has swept across Nashville's immigrant community since President Trump began his campaign of mass deportations. In the first 100 days of the administration, the number of deportations has increased by nearly 40% as compared to the same period in the previous year. In his January 25th executive order, the president made clear that all undocumented people would be priorities for deportation and that local law enforcement would be asked to join the deportation force. The Trump administration has increasingly relied on local government agencies to carry out mass deportations, from detaining a domestic violence victim seeking an order of protection in a Texas courthouse to arresting a California father outside of his daughter's public school.


As a result, many immigrants in Nashville have avoided interactions with public agencies and other service providers for fear of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deporting them or one of their family members. A recent national study of advocates for sexual and domestic violence survivors found that 78% of immigrant survivors had shared with their agencies that they have concerns about contacting police; three out of four advocates reported that immigrant survivors have concerns about going to court for a matter related to the abuser. Advocates in Davidson County have reported similar trends. There have also been troubling reports about parents declining to bring their children in for medical appointments and vaccinations for fear of their immigration status being shared with ICE. In response to concerns about declining parent and student engagement, the Board of the Metro Nashville Public Schools passed a resolution in December 2016 clarifying the separation between public school facilities and employees and the enforcement of federal immigration laws.


Existing state and federal law require all local government and law enforcement agencies to comply with federal immigration law, but the way that ICE carries out mass deportations in local communities is aided by voluntary and largely unfunded collaboration. The ordinance ensures the city's limited resources are allocated to local priorities, not carrying out the duties of the federal government. The Trump administration's blurring of the lines between city services and federal immigration enforcement has had a chilling effect on immigrant families accessing critical services and participating in the city. Recognizing that the cooperation of immigrant communities and public agencies is critical to fulfilling the mission of the city, the ordinance seeks to clarify the roles and responsibilities of our local government and to reassure residents. Hundreds of jurisdictions across the country have placed reasonable limits on how they'll respond to voluntary requests from ICE and whether they'll allocate resources to do the work of the federal government.


A second ordinance was filed that could bring an end to the use of the Davidson County jail as an immigrant detention center. The sheriff's office currently detains immigrants that are picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from within and outside of the county.

There are an estimated 33,000 undocumented residents in Nashville, including 8,000 who have at least one child that is a U.S. citizen. 75% of undocumented Nashvillians have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and 26% own a home in Davidson County. A recent poll of Nashville residents commissioned by Vanderbilt University's Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions found that nearly 60% of respondents didn't believe the local government should use local resources to enforce federal immigration law.



The following is a quote from Stephanie Teatro, Co-Executive Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC):


"The filing of this legislation marks an important moment in Nashville's journey to becoming a more welcoming and just city. When voting on the English-Only referendum, Nashvillians made a clear choice about what kind of city we wanted to be.  Now, as cities across the country are coming under increased pressure from the federal government to help carry out mass deportations, we once again have an important choice to make. 


Immigrant families are deeply rooted in our community. In the face of mass deportations, TIRRC has been organizing immigrant communities to protect their families and defend their right to remain; and they are not alone. Since the election, Nashvillians of all stripes have made clear they oppose mass deportations, which separate families and devastate communities. 


The Nashville Together campaign will organize immigrants, refugees and their neighbors to pass this critical legislation. The ordinances filed today uphold our city's values and proud history of welcoming immigrants. By making it easier for all residents to fully participate and contribute, we'll strengthen and protect our whole city. "