The Welcoming Tennessee Initiative (WTI)
Between 1990 and 2000, Tennessee had the sixth fastest rate of immigrant growth (169%) and the fourth fastest rate of Latino growth (278%) of any state in the country. This rapid demographic shift has made many within the state uneasy. This unease has been exploited by several different groups and individuals, including opportunistic politicians, white supremacist groups such as the KKK, and ratings-hungry radio talk show hosts.
Although the climate for immigrants has become increasingly difficult in Tennessee over the past five years, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) has managed to obtain several substantial policy victories on the local and state levels. Despite these successes, TIRRC recognizes that further victories can only realistically be achieved if there is a significant change in the public dialogue about immigrants in Tennessee. In order to help bring about this change, TIRRC launched the Welcoming Tennessee Initiative, which was inspired by a similar successful campaign in Iowa.
WTI is a collaboration of concerned Tennesseans from all walks of life – business, law enforcement, community and faith – who are proud that Tennessee is a welcoming state, and are working to continue that noble tradition by increasing understanding of how new Tennesseans share our values, contribute to our economy, enhance our combined culture and strengthen our communities.
Most Tennesseans agree that we are and should continue to be hospitable, empathetic people. We have a responsibility to treat everyone – neighbors and visitors alike – with respect and decency.
In pursuit of these values, Welcoming Tennessee holds public forums, educational presentations, and other community events to foster an open dialogue about immigration and New Tennesseans. Led by local leaders from Memphis to Knoxville, WTI strives to create an atmosphere where the concerns of all of Tennessee's residents are recognized, so that we can move forward to create a better state for all.