2009 E Pluribus Unum WINNER

Tennessee Immigrant
and Refugee Rights Coalition

In 2006, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition launched a public education and communications campaign to foster constructive public dialogue in a state facing profound demographic change with a more than 300 percent growth in its immigrant population over 15 years. The Welcoming Tennessee Initiative creates opportunities for Tennessee residents, native-born and immigrant alike, to discuss the effects of immigration, its historical and national contexts, and how to develop strategies for strong, inclusive communities.

The Initiative has created welcoming committees in Nashville and Shelbyville (a small community that has experienced a large influx of Latino and Somali immigrants) to facilitate conversations about immigration; recruited and trained more than 70 "ambassadors" around the state to organize welcoming committees and facilitate discussions; launched public education campaigns through billboard ads; and held community forums and presentations at churches, universities, civic clubs, and other sites. The Welcoming Tennessee initiative has inspired similar efforts in 13 other states.

For more on TIRRC's Welcoming Tennessee Initiative, visit: www.welcomingtn.org

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Exceptional Immigrant
Integration Initiative

In a new destination state like Tennessee, which faces a significant policy and public debate about immigration and its impacts, the Welcoming Tennessee Initiative (WTI) plays a proactive role in increasing public understanding of the realities of immigration, situating recent demographic changes in a broader historical context and constructively engaging the public in areas where they have concerns.

The WTI has created a mutually enriching dialogue between native Tennesseans and new residents, which is in turn creating a shared understanding of immigration's challenges and opportunities and more cohesion in communities that are taking these issues on.

WTI "ambassadors" and welcoming committees serve a powerful educational role and help to raise the level of public discourse surrounding immigration and immigrants so that public policies can be built on a solid analysis and mutual respect for the concerns of native residents and of newcomers.

WTI, which was an effort conceived outside of government and joined by a wide range of actors, serves as a strong example that while government can be a pro-active player, sometimes communities and civic leaders can step into that role with great success.

About Stephen Fotopulos,
Executive Director

Stephen Fotopulos is the Executive Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), in Nashville, Tennessee.

Before becoming Executive Director in 2008, Mr. Fotopulos served as TIRRC Policy Director for four years, joining the organization in 2004.

He served for five years as a logistics officer in the United States Navy, living and working in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf.

Mr. Fotopulos sits on several boards and advisory councils dealing with immigration, including the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services where he is co-chair of the Task Force on Immigrants and Refugees.