Over the course of the spring 2016 session of the General Assembly, in anticipation of a vote on Tuition Equality in the Tennessee House, AKIN convened a working group of people of faith to try to make sure that area representatives heard from faith leaders supportive of Tuition Equality. Eventually two letters were circulated within local faith circles. The texts were similar, with one speaking from a Christian perspective and the other from an interfaith perspective. Together the letters were signed by ninety faith leaders from Knoxville and surrounding communities, from a range of different denominations and faith traditions, people who live and worship in many legislative districts across our area. The letters were sent to over a dozen members of the Tennessee House.
Check out the following op-eds to see the value of Tuition Equality in Tennessee:
Help Build Support for Tuition Equality!
Many students are presently locked out, with dreams on hold — Each year, undocumented students graduate from Tennessee high schools with hopes of continuing their education and starting a career that benefits our state and strengthens our communities. However, no matter how long they have lived in Tennessee or what their potential is, undocumented Tennessee students must pay out-of-state rates that often total more than three times the tuition their in-state classmates pay to attend a public college or university—even if they meet the same residency requirements as their peers. For many this barrier is insurmountable.
Check out this cover story on Knoxville’s Juan Quevedo from the Spring 2015 issue of the Tennessee College of Law alumni magazine. Quevedo went public about his experiences as a way of helping to change the climate for unauthorized immigrants in the US. From the article:
“I have fallen deeply in love, not with a human being, but with the law. Not with walking the dog or gazing at the stars or watching the sunset, but with seeking equal justice, organizing for civil rights, and advocating for genuine representation of the low-income and undocumented immigrant community.” – Juan Quevedo
This statement was released today by the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition:
Nashville – This afternoon, the Tuition Equality bill failed to pass in the House on a vote of 49-47, lacking the constitutional majority (50) required for passage. Three members were not present for the vote. The bill was referred back to Calendar and Rules and can be reconsidered next legislative session, without having to be reconsidered in the Senate or committees it has already passed.
When TIRRC youth members gathered on graduation day in May of 2012 to announce their campaign for Tuition Equality, they pledged to one another that they would educate their community, lobby lawmakers, and tell their stories until Tuition Equality was a reality in Tennessee. After three years of campaigning, we are disappointed but not deterred by today’s vote. The fact that the bill passed the Senate last Thursday by a vote of 21-12 and earned the support of 49 House members is a testament to the leadership and resilience of TIRRC’s youth members.
A PDF of this can be found here.
Common Myths about Immigrants and Immigration in Tennessee
Myth #1: Undocumented immigrants are criminals.
In fact, unlawful presence in the United States is a civil violation of federal law, not a crime. Therefore, undocumented immigration status does not make someone a criminal. While some public figures claim that immigrants are filling our jails, many of those same individuals support legislation that turns everyday activities into crimes—like driving to work or renting an apartment. According to U.S. Census data, immigrants have the lowest rates of imprisonment for criminal convictions in American society (Migration Policy Institute). The incarceration rate of the US born (3.51) is four times the rate of the foreign-born (.086). Between 1990 and 2004, the number of foreign-born in Tennessee increased by 267%; but in the last ten years, the overall crime rate has actually decreased, and the rate of violent crime decreased by more than 5% (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation).