Policy & Advocacy

As an organization, we organize communities to become more involved in the civic process. To that end, we engage in advocacy on the local, state, and federal level. We work to prevent legislation from passing that limits the ability of immigrant communities to fully participate and contribute to our communities. We also work to promote legislation that makes it easier for all families to live, learn, work, and worship in our state. 

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Tuesday
Jun212016

2016 La Sesión Legislativa en Resumen

El año pasado, la sesión legislativa del 2015 parecía haber marcado un punto de inflexión para las comunidades de inmigrantes y refugiados a través de Tennessee. Por el tercer año consecutivo, habíamos derrotado todos los proyectos de ley antiinmigrantes de importancia, y se habían presentado muchos menos que en años anteriores. Sin embargo, durante el último año nuestro clima político ha cambiado dramáticamente.

Nuestro contexto ha sido conformado por movimientos cada vez más visibles por la justicia, como el movimiento en favor de la vida de la gente Afro-Americanos, y por victorias significativas, como el fallo acerca de la igualdad en el matrimonio. Nuestro momento actual ha sido conformado por actos recientes de terrorismo global y doméstico y por el mayor desplazamiento de personas desde la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Tal vez lo más relevante para nosotros es que también ha sido conformado por una candente y poco convencional campaña presidencial. Es en este contexto que nuestra legislatura fue convocada en enero de 2016 para el año final de la 109ª Asamblea General.

Los candidatos a la presidencia no eran los únicos que estaban compitiendo este año por votos y llevando a cabo una campaña xenofóbica cada vez más ruin. La mitad del Senado de Tennessee y la totalidad de la Cámara de Representantes están en campaña de reelección, causando que muchos se enfoquen en el politiqueo y no en las políticas y legislaciones. Hace principio de la sesión legislativa, quedó claro que muchos estaban esperando montarse al caballo de los candidatos presidenciales haciendo eco de retórica antiinmigrante e islamofóbica. Sin lugar a dudas, el 2016 fue una de las sesiones legislativas más hostiles en años y será recordada como un ejercicio de teatro político y oportunismo de la peor calaña. En la lista de proyectos legislativos al inicio de la sesión legislativa, se presentaron 15 proyectos de ley anti inmigrantes, islamofóbicos o en contra de los refugiados, y el proyecto de ley sobre igualdad de cuotas de colegiatura esperaba un voto final en el pleno de la cámara de representantes. Aun cuando no pudimos conseguir que se aprobara la igualdad de la matriculación este año, nos mantuvimos firmes y prevenimos que todos menos dos de los proyectos de ley antiinmigrantes se convirtieran en ley este año.

Vea a continuación un resumen de todo los proyectos de ley y sus resultados. Aunque queda claro que aún tenemos mucho por hacer para construir un Tennessee donde los derechos y la dignidad de los inmigrantes y refugiados estén protegidos, también queda claro que tenemos una poderosa coalición de refugiados, inmigrantes y aliados dispuestos a hacer el trabajo. Gracias por ser parte de nuestra coalición y por todo lo que usted hace para crear un Tennessee más acogedor.

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Las propuestas legislativas

Cerrarle la puerta a los refugiados

Desde el 2011, la legislatura de Tennessee ha estado tanteando el terreno para algunas de las políticas más extremas en contra de los refugiados, patrocinadas por organizaciones nativistas que han trabajado por mucho tiempo para erosionar el apoyo en favor de los programas de reasentamiento. Aún cuando sus puntos de vista y propuestas políticas en gran medida estaban fuera de la corriente política prevaleciente en años pasados, recientes tragedias globales, la crisis global de refugiados que aún continúa y la retórica de la temporada electoral han permitido que estás políticas radicales obtengan un amplio apoyo.

 Lea más acerca de la larga historia de organización en contra de los refugiados en nuestro informe publicado recientemente, Cómo contrarrestar el contragolpe: Estrategias para responder a la actividad xenofóbica y en contra de los refugiados en el nuevo sur.

Con el objetivo de a aprovecharse de los peores temores e instintos de los habitantes de Tennessee, los legisladores con gusto buscaron ganar puntos políticos haciendo chivos expiatorios de los refugiados. En total se propusieron seis políticas que limitarían o darían fin al reasentamiento de refugiados o que harían mucho más difícil que los refugiados pudieran reconstruir su vida aquí. Entre las propuestas se incluyeron medidas para denegar servicios a familias y niños refugiados, para discriminar en contra de los refugiados de países del Medio Oriente y el norte de África, y para quitarle a Caridades Católicas el control de la Oficina de Tennessee para Refugiados, en un intento por limitar o detener el reasentamiento de refugiados. Tuvimos éxito en prevenir que cinco de estos proyectos de ley se volvieran ley, sin embargo, la legislatura pudo avanzar la Resolución Conjunta del Senado (SJR) 467, la cual cobró impulso rápidamente.

La SJR 467, presentada por el vicegobernador Ron Ramsey (R - Kingsport), el senador Mark Norris (R - Collierville) y la representante Terri Lynn Weaver (R- Lancaster), ordena al Procurador General Slatery que presente una demanda en contra el gobierno federal sobre el reasentamiento de refugiados. La resolución tuvo 24 patrocinadores en el Senado, y según se informa, más de 70 patrocinadores en la Cámara de Representantes. Si el Procurador General Slatery decide no presentar una demanda, esta resolución le permite a la Asamblea General contratar un abogado externo. Los promotores de la resolución han citado al auto-denominado despacho legal conservador, el Centro Legal Thomas More (TMLC), el cual es conocido por su ideología anti-musulmana extrema, como el grupo más probable para ofrecer asesoría legal externa. El TMLC ha estado buscando ser demandante en esta demanda por meses y, vergonzosamente, ha encontrado un socio en Tennessee.

 Para leer nuestro informe sobre la SJR 467, haga clic aquí.

En respuesta al contragolpe en contra de los refugiados, hemos construido una poderosa coalición de líderes de los refugiados, agencias de reasentamiento y organizaciones que sirven a los refugiados, líderes espirituales y aliados. Hemos movilizado a cientos para que asistan a juntas comunitarias y a votaciones en el pleno, recabado miles de firmas en peticiones, declarado en comités y remitido más de 9000 mensajes de correo electrónico en oposición a estos proyectos de ley al gobernador y a los legisladores.

A fin de cuentas, la SJR 467 fue aprobada por el Senado con un voto de 27 contra 5 y en la Cámara de Representantes con un voto de 69 contra 25. El 27 de abril, entregamos una carta al gobernador instándole a que vetara esta peligrosa resolución. Socios nacionales y locales también rogaron al gobernador que la vetara. Desgraciadamente el Gobernador Haslam prefirió darle prioridad a la politiquería por encima de la buena política pública y el sentido común, y devolvió la resolución a la legislatura sin su firma. Defirió al Procurador General la decisión de determinar si la demanda esbozada en la SJR 467 es en el mejor interés de los habitantes de Tennessee y si la legislatura tiene la autoridad constitucional de contratar asesoría legal externa. Continuaremos monitoreando los acontecimientos acerca de la posible demanda y construyendo una fuerte coalición a través del estado para reconstruir el apoyo por el reasentamiento de refugiados y la inversión en la integración de los refugiados. Manténgase sintonizado para mayor información.

Lea aquí nuestra declaración sobre la falla del Gobernador en vetar la SJR 467 aquí.

Prohibición de ciudades santuario

Desde julio del 2015, candidatos presidenciales y extremistas en el congreso han estado haciendo campaña en contra de las llamadas “ciudades santuario”, un mal nombre que describe localidades donde se han establecido límites razonables a la manera como las autoridades federales pueden llevar a cabo actividades de aplicación de la ley migratoria. Este año, se presentaron tres proyectos de ley que habrían requerido que las localidades “cumplieran plenamente” con cada una de las solicitudes de las autoridades federales de migración, incluyendo solicitudes voluntarias como detener personas que, de otra manera, calificarían para que se les dejara en libertad. Si alguna localidad intentase establecer límites razonables en cuanto a la colaboración con ICE, se les castigaría reteniendo préstamos, incentivos y subvenciones del Departamento de Desarrollo Económico o subvenciones otorgadas a agencias de la autoridad locales.

A través de la sesión, educamos a los legisladores sobre cómo estos mal informados proyectos de ley podrían poner en peligro la seguridad pública, desperdiciar recursos de los contribuyentes y crear un riesgo de responsabilidad legal por violaciones del debido proceso. Cada uno de los proyectos de ley obligando a la colaboración con los agentes de migración federales fue derrotado en comité. Sin embargo, queda claro que nos queda mucho trabajo por hacer para educar a los legisladores sobre el desastroso impacto de enredar a ICE con las agencias del orden público locales.

Lea nuestro análisis político del HB 1637/SB 1486 aquí, y nuestro análisis del HB 1969/SB 2267 aquí. 

Criminalización de los inmigrantes indocumentados

El HB 1885/SB 1768, presentado por el representante Daniels (R-Knoxville) y el senador Bailey (R – Sparta), habría permitido sentencias aumentadas en los tribunales penales “si el acusado estaba presente ilegalmente” al momento que se cometió el delito.   a pesar de que fue aprobado en los comités, el HB 1885 no recibió financiamiento a través del presupuesto del Estado y, por tanto, no se convirtió en ley.

Lea nuestro análisis político sobre el HB 1885  aquí.

Expansión del E-Verify

Se presentaron cuatro proyectos de ley diferentes para expandir el uso del  programa federal E-Verify en Tennessee. La expansión de este inexacto y costoso programa erosiona los derechos y protecciones de los trabajadores, crea barreras innecesarias y discriminatorias al empleo e impone una carga a las pequeñas empresas. Algunas medidas habrían ampliado las leyes existentes sobre E-Verify de manera que obligarían a las empresas con más de un empleado a participar en el programa. Otras buscaban aumentar las penas por no cumplir con las leyes de E-Verify, y otra más añadía requisitos de divulgación a empresas que intentaban  efectuar contratos con el estado, poniendo a los empleados en riesgo de violar la ley federal. A pesar de la fuerte oposición de TIRRC y miembros de la comunidad empresarial, una de las propuestas de E-Verify fue enmendada y, a fin de cuentas, promulgada. La SB 1965/ HB 1830 fue aprobada y requerirá que toda empresa que emplee a más de 50 empleados participe en el programa E-Verify a partir de Junio del 2016. Seguiremos observando el arranque de esta ley y trabajaremos en defensa de los derechos de los trabajadores. 

Igualdad de la matriculación

En el 2015, el Senado de Tennessee aprobó la ley de igualdad de la matriculacion con un voto abrumador de 21-12; la ley estuvo a  apenas un voto  de ser aprobada en el pleno de la Cámara de Representantes. Éste año necesitábamos 18 votos en el Comité de Calendario y Reglas para tener una segunda oportunidad en el pleno de la Cámara de Representantes.

En una sesión electoral propulsada por la politiquería de la elección presidencial y la retórica en contra de los inmigrantes, los miembros de la Cámara de Representantes decidieron denegar a miles de estudiantes el acceso a la educación superior, en lugar de emitir un voto sobre este proyecto de ley. No hubo 18 miembros del Comité de Calendario y Reglas dispuestos a votar en favor de la igualdad de la matriculación.

Por los últimos 12 meses, nos hemos estado organizando en todos los rincones de este estado. Hemos construido una coalición de miles, desde Dreamers hasta educadores, de Memphis a Morristown. Y no estuvimos solos: agricultores de todos los condados votaron para incluir la igualdad de la matriculacion como parte de la agenda legislativa de la asociación de agricultores de Tennessee (Tennessee Farm Bureau) para el 2016. El Consejo Directivo de Educación Superior de Tennessee (Tennessee Board of Regents) incluyó nuestro proyecto de ley como una de sus prioridades políticas para el 2016, reconociendo que es un paso importante del programa Drive to 55. A través del estado, cámaras de comercio, presidentes de universidades, líderes religiosos y grupos comunitarios se unieron a nosotros para apoyar la igualdad de cuotas de colegiatura.

A pesar del fracaso de la Cámara de Representantes para actuar este año, sabemos que la historia y el ímpetu están de nuestra parte y que sólo es cuestión de tiempo antes de que se vuelva realidad del igualdad de la matriculacion en Tennessee. Convertiremos nuestro enojo en acción, pondremos a buen uso la valentía de los Dreamers a través del estado y regresaremos nuevamente a la sesión legislativa del 2017 más fuertes que nunca.

Muchas gracias

Gracias a las múltiples organizaciones e instituciones que lucharon incansablemente en favor de la igualdad de cuotas este año, incluyendo a miembros de nuestro Comité Consultivo de Igualdad de Cuotas de La Matriculacion, la Asociación de Granjeros de Tennessee, la Cámara de Comercio del Área de Nashville, y el Consejo Directivo de Educación Superior de Tennessee. Agradecemos el apoyo y participación de ustedes en esta campaña y también por seguir el liderazgo de los jóvenes indocumentados.

Gracias a nuestros socios de la comunidad de reasentamiento y servicio a los refugiados, quienes efectúan trabajo crítico todos los días y quienes también actúan como poderosos partidarios y defensores. Estamos especialmente agradecidos por la colaboración con el Centro Scarritt Bennett, quienes trabajaron con nosotros para desarrollar una red de líderes religiosos a través del estado, los cuales se manifestaron en favor del liderazgo moral y la valentía política en la campaña Bienvenidos los Refugiados.

Gracias a nuestras muchas organizaciones miembros y asociadas a través de Tennessee, cuyo liderazgo y abogacía fortalecieron la campaña en pro de la igualdad de cuotas de colegiatura y todos los esfuerzos por derrotar los severos proyectos de ley en contra de los inmigrantes. También le agradecemos a nuestros socios nacionales, quienes apoyaron nuestro trabajo de muchísimas maneras. Un millón de gracias a United We Dream, el National Immigration Law Center, Church World Service, Refugee Council USA, el IRC, la Partnership for a New American Economy y la Unión Americana de Libertades Civiles (ACLU).

Por último, muchas gracias a todos nuestros miembros y partidarios que escribieron mensajes de correo electrónico, hicieron llamadas, se reunieron con nuestros legisladores y actuaron. ¡No lo podríamos haber hecho sin ustedes!

 

Tuesday
Jun212016

2016 Legislative Session in Review

Last year, the 2015 legislative session seemed to mark a turning point for immigrant and refugee communities across Tennessee. For the third year in row, we had defeated every major anti-immigrant bill, and far fewer had been filed than in years past. Over the past year, however, our political climate has changed dramatically.

Our context has been shaped by increasingly visible movements for justice, like the movement for black lives, and by significant victories, like the marriage equality ruling. Our current moment has been shaped by recent acts of global and domestic terrorism and by the largest displacement of people since World War II. Perhaps most consequentially for us, it has also been shaped by a heated and off-script campaign for the presidency. It is in this context that our legislature convened in January of 2016 for the final year of the 109th General Assembly.

Candidates for president were not the only ones competing for votes and engaging in a xenophobic race to the bottom this year. Half of the Tennessee Senate and the entire House of Representatives are also up for re-election, causing many to focus on politics instead of policy. Early in the legislative session, it became clear that many were hoping to ride the coattails of presidential candidates by echoing anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric. Without question, 2016 was one of the most hostile legislative sessions in years and will be remembered as an exercise of political theater and opportunism at its worst. Fifteen anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, or anti-refugee bills were on the docket at the start of the legislative session and the tuition equality bill awaited a final vote on the House floor. Although we were not able to pass tuition equality this year, we held the line and prevented all but two of the anti-immigrant bills from becoming law this year.

See below for an overview of the proposals and results. While it is clear that we still have much to do to build a Tennessee where the rights and dignity of immigrants and refugees are protected, it's also clear that we have a powerful coalition of refugees, immigrants, and allies ready to do the work. Thanks for being part of our coalition and for all that you do to create a more welcoming Tennessee.

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The Legislative Proposals

Closing the Door on Refugees

Since 2011, the Tennessee legislature has been the testing ground for the country’s most extreme anti-refugee policies, championed by nativist organizations who have long worked to erode support for resettlement programs. While their views and policy proposals were largely outside of the political mainstream in years past, recent global tragedies, the ongoing global refugee crisis, and election rhetoric allowed these once fringe policies to gain broad support.  

Seeking to play off of Tennessean’s worst fears and instincts, legislators were eager to score political points by scapegoating refugees. In all, six policies were proposed that would limit or end refugee resettlement or make it harder for refugees to rebuild their lives here. Proposals included measures to deny services to refugee families and children, to discriminate against refugees from Middle Eastern and North African countries; and to re-take control of the Tennessee Office for Refugees from Catholic Charities in an attempt to limit or halt refugee resettlement. We successfully prevented five of these bills from becoming law, however, the legislature was able to advance Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 467, which quickly gained momentum.

SJR 467, introduced by Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey (R – Kingsport), Senator Mark Norris (R – Collierville) and Representative Terri Lynn Weaver (R – Lancaster), directs Attorney General Slatery to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement. The resolution had 24 sponsors in the Senate and reportedly over 70 sponsors in the House. If Attorney General Slatery chooses not to file a lawsuit, this resolution allows the General Assembly to hire outside counsel. The resolution’s sponsors have cited  the self-described conservative law firm, the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), which is known for its extremist anti-Muslim ideology, as the most likely group to offer outside counsel. The TMLC had been seeking a plaintiff in this lawsuit for months, and embarrassingly found a partner in Tennessee.

In response to the anti-refugee backlash, we built a powerful coalition of refugee leaders, resettlement agencies and refugee-serving organizations, faith leaders, and allies. We mobilized hundreds to attend committee meetings and floor votes, gathered thousands of petition signatures, testified in committees, and mobilized more than 9000 emails to the Governor and legislators in opposition to the bills.

In the end, SJR 467 passed the Senate with 27-5 votes and the House of Representatives with 69-25 votes. On April 27th, we delivered a letter to the governor urging him to veto this dangerous resolution. National and local partners also urged the governor to veto. Unfortunately, Governor Haslam chose to prioritize politics over good public policy and common sense and returned the resolution to the legislature without his signature. He deferred to the attorney general to determine whether the lawsuit outlined in SJR467 is in the best interest of Tennesseans and whether the legislature has the constitutional authority to employ outside counsel. We are continuing to monitor developments around the potential lawsuit and to build a strong, statewide coalition to rebuild support for refugee resettlement and invest in refugee integration. Stay tuned for more information. 

Banning Sanctuary Cities 

Since July 2015, Presidential candidates and extremists in Congress have been campaigning against so-called "sanctuary cities" – a misnomer to describe localities that have put reasonable limits on how federal authorities can conduct immigration enforcement activities. This year,there were three bills filed that would have required localities to “fully comply” with every request from federal immigration authorities, including voluntary requests like detaining individuals when they would otherwise be eligible for release. If any locality did attempt to set reasonable limits on collaboration with ICE, they would be punished by withholding loans, incentives, and grants from the Department of Economic Development or grants made to local law enforcement agencies.

Throughout the session, we educated lawmakers on how these misguided bills could jeopardize public safety, waste taxpayer resources, and make localities liable for due process violations. Each of the bills to mandate collaboration with federal immigration agents were defeated in committee. However, it is clear we still have a lot of work to do to educate lawmakers on the disastrous impacts of ICE and local law enforcement entanglement.

Criminalizing Undocumented Immigrants

HB 1885/SB 1768, introduced by Representative Daniels (R – Knoxville) and Senator Bailey (R – Sparta), would have allowed for enhanced sentences in criminal court "if the defendant was illegally present" at the time the crime was committed. Despite passing in committees, HB1885 was not funded in the state’s budget and therefore did not become law.

Expanding E-Verify 

Four different bills were introduced to expand the use of the federal E-verify program in Tennessee. Expansion of this inaccurate and costly program undermines worker rights and protections, creates unnecessary and discriminatory barriers to employment, and burdens small businesses.  Some measures would have expanded existing E-verify laws to require every business that employs more than one person to participate in the program. Others sought to increase penalties for not complying with E-verify laws, and another added disclosure requirements to businesses attempting to contract with the state, putting employers at risk of violating federal law. Despite strong opposition from TIRRC and members of the business community, one of the E-verify proposals was amended and ultimately enacted.SB1965/HB1830 passed and will require any business that employs more than 50 employees to participate in the E-verify program starting in June 2016. We will monitor the roll out of this bill and work to defend the rights of workers.

Tuition Equality

In 2015, the Tennessee Senate passed the tuition equality bill by an overwhelming vote of 21-12, and the bill came within just one vote of passing on the House floor. This year, we needed 18 votes in the Calendar and Rules Committee to get a second chance on the House floor.

In an election season fueled by Presidential politics and anti-immigrant rhetoric, members of the House of Representatives chose to deny thousands of students access to higher education rather than cast a vote on this bill. There were not 18 members of the Calendar and Rules Committee willing to vote for tuition equality.

For the past 12 months, we’ve been organizing in every corner of this state. We’ve built a coalition of thousands, from Dreamers to educators, from Memphis to Morristown. And we didn’t stand alone -- Farmers in every county voted to include tuition equality as part of the Tennessee Farm Bureau’s 2016 legislative agenda. The Tennessee Board of Regents included our bill as one of their key policy priorities for 2016, recognizing that it’s an important step in the Drive to 55. Statewide, chambers of commerce, university presidents, faith leaders, and community groups all joined us in pushing for tuition equality.

Despite the failure of the House of Representatives to take action this year, we know that history and momentum are on our side and that it’s only a matter of time before tuition equality becomes a reality in Tennessee. We will turn our anger into action, harness the courage of Dreamers across the state, and come back again for the 2017 legislative session stronger than ever. 

Many Thanks

Thank you to the many organizations and institutions who fought tirelessly for tuition equality this year, including members of our Tuition Equality Advisory Committee, the Tennessee Farm Bureau, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Tennessee Board of Regents. We are grateful for your support and partnership in this campaign and for following the leadership of undocumented youth.

Thank you to our partners in the refugee resettlement and refugee-serving community who do critical work each day and also act as powerful advocates. We are especially grateful for the partnership of the Scarritt Bennett Center, for working with us to build a network of faith leaders across the state who stood for moral leadership and political courage in the Refugees Welcome campaign.

Thank you to our many member and partner organizations across Tennessee, whose leadership and advocacy strengthened the campaign for tuition equality and all of the efforts to defeat harsh anti-immigrant bills. We are also so grateful for our national partners who supported our work in so many ways. A million thank yous to United We Dream, the National Immigration Law Center, Church World Service, Refugee Council USA, the IRC, the Partnership for a New American Economy, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

And lastly, many thanks to all of our members and supporters who wrote emails, made phone calls, met with legislators, and took action. We couldn’t do it without you!

Saturday
Feb132016

What's at Stake for Immigrants and Refugees in 2016

The 2016 legislative session is underway! On January 12th, legislators returned to Nashville for the second half of the 109th General Assembly. Half of the Tennessee Senate and the entire House of Representatives will be up for re-election in August and November of this year, causing many to align themselves with good politics instead of good policy. Many legislators are also hoping to ride the coattails of Presidential candidates by echoing the anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment that has taken center stage in the 2016 elections.

This year we'll be working to defeat more than 15 pieces of legislation, including extreme attempts to stop refugee resettlement and three bills that aim to stop so-called "sanctuary" cities by prohibiting localities from limiting how ICE uses local facilities and institutions to separate families. And, we'll be working hard to make sure that tuition equality passes this year and that undocumented students in the Class of 2016 have greater opportunity to enroll in college this fall. 

Below is a summary of what's at stake for immigrants and refugees this legislative session. For more details on specific bills and tools to advocate for your community, visit our 2016 policy watch page. 

For more information about TIRRC's policy work, please contact our Policy Manager Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus at lisa@tnimmigrant.org.

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Tuition Equality

Since 2012, TIRRC members have been advocating to change our tuition policies and make it easier for undocumented Tennessee students to pursue higher education. Last year, a bill to grant in-state tuition to certain undocumented students came within one vote of passing. Read more about the vote here.

This year, the bill will have to pass the Calendar and Rules committee before it goes back to the House floor for another vote. TIRRC members have been organizing across the state since the bill failed in April 2015. Stay tuned for more updates on how you can get involved in the campaign and make sure that tuition equality becomes a reality for Tennessee students this year. Questions? Contact Eben Cathey at Eben@tnimmigrant.org for more information. 

Download our newest publication, Tuition Equality: A Brighter Future for TennesseeWe hope you can use this information to build support for tuition equality in your community!


#RefugeesWelcome?

As expected, the legislature is considering a handful of anti-refugee policies. Since the tragedies in Paris in November 2015, some legislators have attempted to scapegoat refugees and introduced bills that would seek to limit or halt resettlement, deny services to refugee families and children, and discriminate against refugees from certain Middle Eastern and African countries. One particular resolution (SJR0476) would direct the Attorney General to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement (and allow the General Assembly to hire outside counsel if the AG refuses to sue). These bills are the latest in a years long campaign to stem Muslim migration and slow changing demographics across the state. Read more about Tennessee's long history of anti-refugee and anti-Muslim policies in our latest report, Countering the Backlash: Strategies for Responding to Anti-Refugee and Xenophobic Activity from the New South.  We'll need your support this year to make sure that Tennessee legislators understand that they can't score political points by closing the door on people fleeing violence and persecution.

People of Faith: Join us in Welcoming Refugees! TIRRC and the Scarritt Bennett Center are organizing faith leaders to join our campaign to ensure that Tennessee welcomes refugees. Please encourage faith leaders in your network to sign on today.  


Keeping Immigration Out of the Criminal Justice System

Since July 2015, Presidential candidates and extremists in Congress have been campaigning against so-called "sanctuary cities"--a misnomer to describe localities that have put reasonable limits on how federal authorities can conduct immigration enforcement activities. There have been three bills filed in the Tennessee legislature that require localities to "fully comply" with every request from federal immigration authorities, including voluntary requests like detaining individuals when they would otherwise be eligible for release. If any locality does attempt to set reasonable limits on collaboration with ICE, they could be punished by the withholding of loans, incentives, and grants from the Department of Economic Development or grants made to local law enforcement agencies. 

Another bill, introduced by Representative Daniels and Senator Bailey, would allow for enhanced sentences in criminal court, "if the defendant was illegally present" at the time the crime was committed. 


Legislating Islamophobia

While the attack on refugees in the legislature is thinly-veiled Islamophobia, some legislators have introduced more explicit anti-Muslim legislature. Of note, Representatives Micah Van Huss, Matthew Hill, and Timothy Hill have filed legislation that they say aims to stop "Islamic religious indoctrination" in Tennessee schools. Representative Van Huss says that he, "did not fight radical Islam in Iraq just to come home and find our children being indoctrinated." 

We're still keeping our eye on Senator Ketron's bill that seeks to ban "no-go" zones in Tennessee. The term "no-go zone" is used to describe a neighborhood or place that is strictly for Muslim communities, where non-Muslims are unwelcome, and where Shariah law governs. Senator Ketron introduced this legislation even after the idea of "no-go zones" had been widely debunked nationally. The bill was introduced last year. It was not debated in committee but will remain an active bill until the legislative session ends later this spring.


Sunday
Mar012015

Policy Update: 2015 Legislative Session Underway!

The 2015 legislative session is underway! 

Over the past decade, the Tennessee General Assembly has debated and voted on some of the harshest anti-immigrantpolicies in the country and has become a national testing ground for unthinkable anti-refugee legislation. TIRRC has led the fight at the legislature to hold the line and stop these bills from passingIn both 2013 and 2014 we defeated every anti-immigrant bill, and over time we have seen far fewerlegislators introduce bills to marginalize and limit the participation of immigrant communities. Not only that, but we are closer than ever to passing a bill that would grant in-state tuition to undocumented graduates in Tennessee. 

Many legislators waited until the bill filing deadline Thursday to introduce their legislation. While we're still reading through proposed legislation to identify bills that will impact immigrants, we've already spotted several harmful pieces -- including sweeping legislation to transform our refugee resettlement program and bills that discriminate against immigrant business owners. We'll send a more detailed list of bills in the next policy update, along with ways you can engage to stop negative legislation.  

 

Tuition Equality Bill Introduced
Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) and Representative Mark White (R-Memphis) have introducedlegislation to exempt certain students from payment of
out-of-state tuition rates at public universities 
(SB0612/HB0675) regardless of immigration status. If passed, this legislation would make college a possibility for thousands of undocumented youth across Tennessee.

Under current policy, undocumented students are not eligible for in-state tuition rates and must pay more than three times as much as their classmates to attend a public college or university, no matter how long they've lived in Tennessee. A similar bill was introduced in 2014 by Senator Gardenhire and former Representative Floyd and garnered support from institutions across Tennessee, like the University of Memphis, Metro Nashville Public Schools, and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. 

Three years ago, TIRRC youth members launched a campaign to change Tennessee's unjust tuitionpolicies, and now we're closer than ever! We're hopeful that Dreamers in the Class of 2015 will be able to walk across the graduation stage with greater access to higher education.

Check out our media coverage!

Bill Would Give Undocumented Immigrants In-State Tuition 
Adam Tamburin at the Tennessean
"Many undocumented immigrants going to college this year will continue to pay substantially more than their peers to stay in Tennessee, unless legislation introduced this week becomes law. Tennessee lawmakers filed a bill this week that would offer some undocumented immigrants in-state tuition at public colleges. The move was greeted with support from immigration advocates, business leaders, and educators."

Patrick McMurtry on Channel 4 in Nashville 
TIRRC member Cesar Bautista shares his story with Channel 4 and explains how current tuition policies prevent eager students from pursuing higher education.

 

Calling all educators!

 

Behind these brave youth has always been a network of allies and educators who have supported, encouraged, and inspired them to keep fighting. As our state legislators will once again consider whether or not to give these graduates in-state tuition, Tennessee Dreamers need the support of teachers, professors, and administrators.  We're asking members of the education community to sign on to a letter that will be sent to members of the General Assembly, urging them to support Dreamers and tuition equality. 

Educators can see the letter, add their name, and learn about other ways to get involved by visiting our website

Sunday
Feb092014

2014 Legislative Session is Underway!

The 2014 legislative session is underway! In recent years, the General Assembly has debated and voted on some of the harshest anti-immigrant policies in the country. TIRRC has been leading the fight at the legislature to hold the line and stop bills from passing that make it more difficult for immigrant families to live, learn, work, and worship in Tennessee. This year, it's clear the tide is turning.

Far fewer legislators are introducing bills to marginalize and limit the participation of immigrant communities. In fact, members of both parties have recognized the value of investing in immigrant integration and have introduced positive bills. 

As the campaign for comprehensive, federal immigration reform continues, we'll be fighting for a more welcoming Tennessee at the state legislature. 

Tuition Equality Now! 

Each year, undocumented students graduate in Tennessee with hopes of continuing their education, but no matter how long they have lived in the state, they must pay more than three times as much to attend a public college or university--even if they meet all other residency requirements as other students. 

We are so happy to announce that two bills have been filed that would expand access to in-state tuition rates to Tennessee graduates, regardless of their immigration status. One of these pieces of legislation is getting ready to be heard in committee, so be on the lookout for opportunities to take action! Learn more about the bills here. 

Bills to Watch

Expanding E-Verify. In 2011, the General Assembly passed a bill expanding the use of E-Verify by employers in Tennessee. This year, Representative Joe Carr (R-Lascassas) and Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), have introduced a bill that would require the use of this costly and inaccurate program for all businesses with more than six employees. E-verify undermines worker rights and protections, makes it difficult for lawful immigrant workers to find jobs, and burdens small businesses. TIRRC strongly opposes this bill. 

Remaining 2013 anti-immigrant bills. We'll continue to monitor and oppose the anti-immigrant bills that were filed in 2013 and remain active. These bills include efforts to defund refugee resettlement, take driver licenses away from DACA recipients, undermine immigrant civic engagement, violate due process in criminal justice proceedings, and require driver license examinations to be conducted in English-only. Read more about all of the bills here. 

In addition to these bills, several legislators have proposed legislation that hurts working families, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. TIRRC will work in solidarity with our allies to oppose these bills and promote economic, racial, and social justice for all people in Tennessee.