Over the past several years, Tennessee has been on the front lines of anti-refugee policy. Since 2011, a handful of notoriously anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant legislators have been introducing a series of bills to defund or limit refugee resettlement to our state. While their efforts had been considered fringe by most of the legislature, the tragedies in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad have given a new audience to those who have led these ongoing campaigns to curb refugee resettlement.
Elected officials at the state and national level are playing off of the fear and worst instincts of Tennesseans and are calling for a moratorium on all refugee resettlement, to specifically bar Syrian refugees, and to institutionalize suspicion and discrimination on all migrants who enter the US from predominately Muslim countries. After a series of statements from members of our General Assembly and congressional delegation, our Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, Governor Haslam announced that he would be joining the ranks of Texas and Alabama in asking the federal government to suspend the resettling of refugees in Tennessee.
In the wake of recent tragedies and in the context of the largest displacement of people since World War II, we are called to act with compassion and leadership, not fear and misplaced blame. These requests from Governor Haslam and other Tennessee elected officials are misguided, knee-jerk reactions to tragedy that put our state on the wrong side of history.