PRESS STATEMENTTuesday, April 11, 2017Contact: Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus | Lisa@tnimmigrant.org
House Education Committee Kills Tuition Opportunity NASHVILLE - Today, the House Education Administration & Planning Committee opted to deny thousands of undocumented students a chance to achieve a higher education and give back to our state. HB0863 was voted down by a 7-6 vote. Reps. Akbari, Brooks, DeBerry, Fitzhugh, Turner, and M. White voted in favor. Reps. Kane, Lollar, Matlock, Moody, Weaver, Smith, and D. White voted against.Karla Meza Cruz, an undocumented student from Knoxville, testified before the full committee. Karla and a dozen other students drove in from Knoxville this morning to urge committee members to give them a chance to pay their way through college. The following is a statement from Stephanie Teatro, Co-Executive Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC):"The committee room was filled with aspiring college graduates, dozens of students holding signs describing what careers they dreamed of having -- future doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs. It is unconscionable that legislators could look these students in the eye and opt to deny them a chance to fulfill their dreams, to more fully contribute to our state, and be part of the Drive to 55.We elect our representatives to make decisions in the best interest of our whole state. There is a consensus around the Drive to 55 that when more students enroll in higher education, we all win. These hard-working Tennessee high school students are just asking for an opportunity to go to college. Who benefits when legislators close the door and limit their potential? Denying these students a chance to go to college is short-sighted, mean-spirited, and a betrayal of our values. Though the dreams of the students have been put on hold for another year, they won't stop fighting for their education. Each year our coalition gets stronger and support for the bill continues to broaden, students will fight for college access until they win."
The following is a quote from Karla Meza Cruz, a student from Knoxville who drove hours to the legislature to watch the committee cast their vote:
"Today, it was a great honor to share my story in front of the House Education Committee. I'm a Knoxvillian and a Tennessean. Since I was five years old, I've driven by UT hoping I'd one day be able to enroll. I can't understand why the legislature won't let me pay my pay to go to college and follow my dreams."
For the past five years, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) and our members across the state have worked tirelessly on the campaign for tuition opportunity by organizing undocumented students and building a coalition of supporters that includes chambers of commerce, education institutions, the Tennessee Farm Bureau, and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.
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.