May 26th, 2009
A Tennessee immigrant advocacy group was recognized Wednesday night at the Library of Congress for a campaign to get people talking about the effects of immigration – good and bad.
‘Welcoming Tennessee’ has trained 70 immigrant ambassadors to meet with and listen to civic groups. The state has seen a 300% growth in its foreign-born population over the last 15 years. Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition director Stephen Fotopulos says his organization purposefully shifted focus away from policy makers and toward the community.
“In Tennessee, as a new destination state, one of the real challenges to integration has been sort of the resistance to newcomers.”
The dialogue started in Tennessee is needed in Congress, says Margie McHugh. She’s with the Migration Policy Institute.
“Right now, Washington doesn’t have that kind of feed back, they’re just obsessed with the legalization debate and how difficult and angry that debate is. And I think people in local communities are ready for a much more grown up conversation.”
The Migration Policy Institute highlighted four immigrant integration programs in what is the first year of the E Pluribus Unum Prize. 500 applied.
Other winning programs are in El Paso, New York and Littleton, Colorado. The E Pluribus Unum Prize comes with a $50,000 award from the J.M. Kaplan Fund.