FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 24, 2015
Lindsay Kee, ACLU-TN communications director, (615) 320-7142
NASHVILLE – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, and over a hundred and twenty-five other civic organizations, faith institutions and businesses from across the state sent Governor Bill Haslam a letter today urging him to rescind his request to suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Tennessee.
“We call on Governor Haslam and other Tennessee leaders to do what is right, not what is easy. Linking the horrific tragedy in Paris to refugee resettlement is a fear-driven reaction that does not make us any safer,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN executive director. “Especially in times like these, it is crucial to remember that fairness and equal treatment are at the heart of the values our constitution protects. Using fear and misplaced blame to craft public policy creates grave challenges to our freedoms.”
In addition to Haslam, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell have called for a moratorium on all refugees entering the United States. Representative Glen Casada has called for Syrian refugees in Tennessee to be “gather[ed] up” and sent to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“In times of tragedy and fear, our values as a nation and state are tested,” said Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights (TIRRC). “Since the governor asked the federal government to suspend Syrian resettlement, the conversation in Tennessee has taken a dangerous turn. It is clear that Tennesseans demand moral clarity and courageous leadership in this moment and we urge Governor Haslam to lead and uphold our values.”
The letter states, in part, “…we will not allow fear to override our better instincts. We know that refugee resettlement will not make our communities any less safe. We know that refugees must wait months and often years to pass the rigorous screening process and are the most scrutinized of any migrants to the United States. We believe it is morally reprehensible to turn our backs on Syrian refugees fleeing terror and violence.”
The letter is being sent on the heels of rallies in Nashville and Johnson City attended by hundreds of people demonstrating their support for refugees. In addition, over 1600 people have signed a petition urging Tennessee lawmakers to welcome refugees.
In addition to ACLU-TN and TIRRC, organizations that have signed the letter include the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, World Relief, the Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship, and the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.
A copy of the letter to Governor Haslam can be found here.