While the federal government has jurisdiction over immigrant policy, our state government can profoundly impact the ability of immigrants to fully participate and contribute to our communities. TIRRC engages in the legislative process by advocating for policies that encourage and support the integration of immigrants in our state. In our current context, we also work to prevent harmful legislation from passing. In the past few years, we’ve successfully defeated over 150 anti-immigrant bills.
Through our work at the Tennessee General Assembly, we hope to build a more welcoming and inclusive state government that recognizes and values the contributions of all Tennesseans. Click here to read our yearly legislative wrap ups. The 2019 legislative session will start January 2019. Check back for more updates.
Over the past year, through sweeping executive orders and quiet administrative action, the president has been transforming our nation's immigration system. He is redefining who gets to be an American and who belongs.
As the president tries to divide our families and communities from D.C., our local communities can cast a different vision of who belongs. But a handful of state legislators have filed bills to turn local police into immigration agents and to drive a wedge between local governments and their residents.
Since inauguration day, the president has been carrying out his draconian campaign promises of mass deportations. In the first 100 days of the administration, immigration arrests were already up nearly 40% over the previous year. Across the country, and here in Tennessee, ICE has been terrorizing communities and separating families.
But, the president isn't alone in his work to build up a deportation force. We've seen the many ways that Tennessee elected officials are making it easier for the federal government to carry out mass deportations. Check out our policy update below.
Last year, the 2015 legislative session seemed to mark a turning point for immigrant and refugee communities across Tennessee. For the third year in row, we had defeated every major anti-immigrant bill, and far fewer had been filed than in years past. Over the past year, however, our political climate has changed dramatically.
Our context has been shaped by increasingly visible movements for justice, like the movement for black lives, and by significant victories, like the marriage equality ruling. Our current moment has been shaped by recent acts of global and domestic terrorism and by the largest displacement of people since World War II. Perhaps most consequentially for us, it has also been shaped by a heated and off-script campaign for the presidency. It is in this context that our legislature convened in January of 2016 for the final year of the 109th General Assembly.
The 2016 legislative session is underway! On January 12th, legislators returned to Nashville for the second half of the 109th General Assembly. Half of the Tennessee Senate and the entire House of Representatives will be up for re-election in August and November of this year, causing many to align themselves with good politics instead of good policy. Many legislators are also hoping to ride the coattails of Presidential candidates by echoing the anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment that has taken center stage in the 2016 elections.
This year we'll be working to defeat more than 15 pieces of legislation, including extreme attempts to stop refugee resettlement and three bills that aim to stop so-called "sanctuary" cities by prohibiting localities from limiting how ICE uses local facilities and institutions to separate families. And, we'll be working hard to make sure that tuition equality passes this year and that undocumented students in the Class of 2016 have greater opportunity to enroll in college this fall.
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.
The 2014 legislative session is underway! In recent years, the General Assembly has debated and voted on some of the harshest anti-immigrant policies in the country. TIRRC has been leading the fight at the legislature to hold the line and stop bills from passing that make it more difficult for immigrant families to live, learn, work, and worship in Tennessee. This year, it's clear the tide is turning.
Far fewer legislators are introducing bills to marginalize and limit the participation of immigrant communities. In fact, members of both parties have recognized the value of investing in immigrant integration and have introduced positive bills.
As the campaign for comprehensive, federal immigration reform continues, we'll be fighting for a more welcoming Tennessee at the state legislature.
On Friday, April 19th, the Tennessee General Assembly adjourned, marking the end of the first half of a two-year session. While this shorter-than-expected session will certainly be remembered for the growing pains of the new Republican supermajority, heated battles over education reform, and several mentions on national cable news, immigrant rights advocates will celebrate 2013 as a year when no anti-immigrant legislation passed.
Though a victory worth celebrating, the 2013 legislative session also forecasts the many challenges we can expect in 2014 and the expanding focus of anti-immigrant legislation in Tennessee.