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"Tennessee is our Home. We are here to stay!"250 immigrants and refugees take over Capitol Hill to combat anti-immigrant legislation
NASHVILLE, TN - Today, 250 Tennesseans representing more than 20 countries of origin traveled from communities across the state to attend the Immigrant and Refugee Day on the Hill, organized by the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) and TIRRC Votes.
Hundreds of immigrants and refugees came to the capitol as the legislature debates a slate of anti-immigrant bills, most introduced by freshman Representative Bruce Griffey (R-Paris). They were scheduled to meet with more than 60 lawmakers.
Watch a video of the press conference here.
For years the Tennessee legislature has debated some of the country's most extreme, anti-immigrant bills. Three years ago, the General Assembly passed a resolution that initiated a lawsuit to keep refugees from being resettled in Tennessee. Last year, they passed one of the nation's harshest anti-immigrant laws, a so-called anti-sanctuary city bill.
"Representative Bruce Griffey is trying to take the anti-immigrant, legislative race to the bottom to unconscionable new lows. He is going after babies - U.S. citizen babies born to undocumented parents," said Stephanie Teatro, Co-Executive Director of TIRRC and TIRRC Votes.
One of the community members participating in the lobby day was Karla Vazquez, a new mother in Nashville. "If Representative Bruce Griffey had his way and all of his bills were passed, he would have stopped me and my baby from accessing life-saving prenatal care while I was pregnant; my baby wouldn't have been given a birth certificate. He doesn't believe my baby should be allowed to be a U.S. citizen and is supporting the repeal of the 14th amendment," Vazquez said. "I can't fathom the reasoning behind targeting babies and soon to be mothers, both of whom should be surrounded by love and care instead of hateful attacks."
"We are here today because too often our politicians forget that immigrants, refugees, and their children are Tennesseans, too," said Teatro. "We are here to urge legislators and Governor Bill Lee to reject these extreme and dangerous bills and to remind them that this is our home, and we are all here to stay."
Click here to see a list of priority bills for the 111th General Assembly.
TIRRC is a statewide, immigrant and refugee-led collaboration whose mission is to empower immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee to develop a unified voice, defend their rights, and create an atmosphere in which they are recognized as positive contributors to the state. Since its founding in 2001, TIRRC has worked to develop immigrant leadership, build the capacity of its immigrant-led member organizations, help immigrant community members understand and engage in the civic process, and educate the public about policies that would better promote integration of new immigrants and facilitate their full participation in US society. In just a few years TIRRC has grown from a grassroots network of community leaders into one of the most diverse and effective coalitions of its kind, a model for emerging immigrant rights organizations in the Southeast and throughout the United States.