Seeking to Understand the Politics Of Immigration in Tennessee

  • De Ann Pendry University of Tennessee-Knoxville
Keywords:  Immigration policy, immigration rights organization, state legislation, undocumented immigration, Tennessee, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Organization.


This article analyzes state legislative politics related to immigration from 2001 to 2011 in Tennessee, a "new destination" for Mexican and other Latino migrants as well as refugees from Africa and the Middle East. Although the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition endeavored to influence policy-making, legislators have passed 13 exclusionary laws that increased internal enforcement and criminal penalties for "illegals," constructed as undeserving, rather than contributing members of society. Also passed were laws restricting "legal" migrants. A small group of white legislators proposed many of the bills. However, half of the senators and one-third of the representatives sponsored at least one bill. Tennessee and other states are setting precedents that will make it difficult to achieve a path to legalization for the "low-skilled" "flexible" workers and their families now living in the United States. Migrants and their allies will need to continue working on shifting the discourse that justifies punitive policies.
How to Cite
Pendry, D. A. (2011). Seeking to Understand the Politics Of Immigration in Tennessee. Norteamérica, Revista Académica Del CISAN-UNAM, 6(3).