In 2022, TIRRC Votes received a massive win for immigrants living in Tennessee with the Workforce Expansion Bill. This bill allows more than seven thousand DACA recipients and three thousand TPS Holders to obtain a professional license in many careers, including nursing, cosmetology, contracting, and more. TIRCC Policy Coordinator, Luis Mata, says the campaign for the bill was built and progressed through directly impacted community members. They advocated for the bill to legislatures in the Tennessee House and Senate, along with members of TIRRC Votes, back in January 2022 when legislation was in session. In April, the Legislative Branch passed House Bill 2309. It advanced to Governor Bill Lee's desk, where he signed it into law, creating many opportunities for many people in the community. The effort was bipartisan, the House sponsor was Democratic State Representative Bob Freeman, and the state sponsor was Republican Senator Shane Reeves, so there was support for the bill on both sides of the aisle.
Despite this major victory, representatives in Tennessee have tried to pass many unlawful and heinous anti-immigrant laws in the past. We have recently, seen House Bill 2222, which would require the Tennessee office for refugees to, at least quarterly, transmit to the members of the general assembly and the legislative librarian a report of the total number of individuals placed by the office in this state for that quarter, the cost to the office of services provided to the placed individuals, and the communities where the individuals were placed in this state. Another that has made headlines include House Bill 1648 by Bruce Griffey which would have given schools the option to refuse to enroll undocumented students. As well as bar districts from receiving state funds for educating these children, and from counting them in funding requests.
Luis says seeing these bills year after year does not deter their mission, because year after year they defeat this legislation, showing the community the power they have as a whole. TIRRC makes sure community members see how much strength they have.
For those wanting to learn more about the laws and rights they have, TIRRC has launched a summer series in partnership with the Nashville Public Defender's Office. The "Know Your Rights" outreach consists of evening workshops on the criminal justice and immigration system. All sessions will be in Spanish and English. To register, text the word "Criminal Justice" to 615-212-9860.
Along with the Community Info Sessions, TIRRC also offers integration services consisting of English learning classes, family defense (presentations on what to do for potential encounters with local law enforcement and ICE, help with legal screenings and document preparation), help and information for becoming a citizen, and much more.
At the end of the day, TIRRC will continue to provide many opportunities for the community and be visible in a place they and others belong.
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My name is Jess and I love telling other peoples stories and bringing awareness to the community.