Over the past decade, the Tennessee General Assembly has debated and voted on some of the harshest anti-immigrant policies 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 passing. In both 2013 and 2014 we defeated every anti-immigrant bill, and over time we have seen far fewer legislators 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 introduced legislation 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 tuition policies, 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."
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.