PRESS STATEMENTFriday, May 26, 2017Contact: Stephanie Teatro | Stephanie@tnimmigrant.org
TIRRC Launches Nashville Together CampaignLegislation filed in Metro Council to keep city agencies out of deportationsNASHVILLE - Today, an ordinance was filed in the Nashville Metro Council by Council Member At-Large Bob Mendes and District 17 Council Member Colby Sledge to draw a bright line between the work of local government and federal immigration enforcement, restoring trust and cooperation between the city and Nashville's immigrant residents. The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) is leading the Nashville Together campaign to organize immigrants, refugees, and their neighbors in support of the legislation.The ordinance comes in response to the tremendous wave of fear and anxiety that has swept across Nashville's immigrant community since President Trump began his campaign of mass deportations. In the first 100 days of the administration, the number of deportations has increased by nearly 40% as compared to the same period in the previous year. In his January 25th executive order, the president made clear that all undocumented people would be priorities for deportation and that local law enforcement would be asked to join the deportation force. The Trump administration has increasingly relied on local government agencies to carry out mass deportations, from detaining a domestic violence victim seeking an order of protection in a Texas courthouse to arresting a California father outside of his daughter's public school. As a result, many immigrants in Nashville have avoided interactions with public agencies and other service providers for fear of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deporting them or one of their family members. A recent national study of advocates for sexual and domestic violence survivors found that 78% of immigrant survivors had shared with their agencies that they have concerns about contacting police; three out of four advocates reported that immigrant survivors have concerns about going to court for a matter related to the abuser. Advocates in Davidson County have reported similar trends. There have also been troubling reports about parents declining to bring their children in for medical appointments and vaccinations for fear of their immigration status being shared with ICE. In response to concerns about declining parent and student engagement, the Board of the Metro Nashville Public Schools passed a resolution in December 2016 clarifying the separation between public school facilities and employees and the enforcement of federal immigration laws.Existing state and federal law require all local government and law enforcement agencies to comply with federal immigration law, but the way that ICE carries out mass deportations in local communities is aided by voluntary and largely unfunded collaboration. The ordinance ensures the city's limited resources are allocated to local priorities, not carrying out the duties of the federal government. The Trump administration's blurring of the lines between city services and federal immigration enforcement has had a chilling effect on immigrant families accessing critical services and participating in the city. Recognizing that the cooperation of immigrant communities and public agencies is critical to fulfilling the mission of the city, the ordinance seeks to clarify the roles and responsibilities of our local government and to reassure residents. Hundreds of jurisdictions across the country have placed reasonable limits on how they'll respond to voluntary requests from ICE and whether they'll allocate resources to do the work of the federal government.A second ordinance was filed that could bring an end to the use of the Davidson County jail as an immigrant detention center. The sheriff's office currently detains immigrants that are picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from within and outside of the county.There are an estimated 33,000 undocumented residents in Nashville, including 8,000 who have at least one child that is a U.S. citizen. 75% of undocumented Nashvillians have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and 26% own a home in Davidson County. A recent poll of Nashville residents commissioned by Vanderbilt University's Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions found that nearly 60% of respondents didn't believe the local government should use local resources to enforce federal immigration law.The following is a statement from Stephanie Teatro, Co-Executive Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC):"The filing of this legislation marks an important moment in Nashville's journey to becoming a more welcoming and just city. When voting on the English-Only referendum, Nashvillians made a clear choice about what kind of city we wanted to be. Now, as cities across the country are coming under increased pressure from the federal government to help carry out mass deportations, we once again have an important choice to make. Immigrant families are deeply rooted in our community. In the face of mass deportations, TIRRC has been organizing immigrant communities to protect their families and defend their right to remain; and they are not alone. Since the election, Nashvillians of all stripes have made clear they oppose mass deportations, which separate families and devastate communities. The Nashville Together campaign will organize immigrants, refugees and their neighbors to pass this critical legislation. The ordinances filed today uphold our city's values and proud history of welcoming immigrants. By making it easier for all residents to fully participate and contribute, we'll strengthen and protect our whole city. "
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.