From the Field

Tennessee offers important lessons on combatting refugee backlash in new report

Anu Joshi • Jan 15, 2016

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) has issued an important new report that chronicles the long history of anti-refugee organizing with roots in the state of Tennessee. The report shows that the most recent spate of attacks on refugees are “not innovative responses to new threats or a tailored response to a post-Paris world but rather the latest in a long campaign to slow changing demographics and limit Muslim migration.”

At the forefront of many of the nation’s most pressing battles to push back against anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim extremist organizing, the Tennessee story is even more important in today’s climate of xenophobia attacks on refugees. Countering the Backlash provides five important lessons learned from the state’s history: 1. build power for the long term, 2. don’t wait, prepare for backlash, 3. engage receiving communities, 4. shape the narrative, and 5. marginalize extreme voices.

The Tennessee story is one of “hope and resiliency, demonstrating that, even in the most hostile environment, communities can respond to legislative and rhetorical threats as an opportunity to organize, build power, and develop the capacity to shift the political climate.”

Read: Countering the Backlash: Strategies for Responding to Anti-Refugee and Xenophobic Activity from the New South.

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