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Tennessee: A Red State Keeps Door Open to Refugees

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Governor Lee Offers Hope in the Bleak Anti-Immigrant Trump Desert

Yesterday, Tennessee’s Republican governor Bill Lee announced that he would keep the state’s doors open to refugees, another powerful example of states and localities standing up for a different vision that the Trump/Stephen Miller effort to slam the door in the face of refugees.

Calling Tennessee a “shining beacon of freedom and opportunity for the persecuted and oppressed,” Governor Lee said his decision to continue to welcome refugees is initially valid for a year. Lee’s decision comes after the local governments of Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Memphis made it clear they wanted to continue accepting refugees. 

According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice, “The heartening announcement from Tennessee is a welcome contrast to the restrictions promoted by the Trump administration. It’s also a reminder that in this era of partisanship and partisan divides over immigration, standing up for local communities and their refugees and immigrants remains possible and a powerful example of a different vision for our country. We thank Gov. Bill Lee for doing the right thing and the hard work and testimony of civic, faith, and advocacy leaders, including those from Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition and Catholic Charities of Tennessee’s Office for Refugees.” 

The Tennessee news follows the pro-refugee announcements from deeply Republican North Dakota, where Burleigh County voted to continue to accept refugees after hours of impassioned testimonies on North Dakota’s long history of welcoming immigrants. Also read this recent Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial, “Minnesota’s Doors, Hearts Remain Open to Refugees,” highlighting some of the powerful pro-refugee sentiment in Minnesota and neighboring North Dakota.