Nashville based TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), a formal affiliate of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), recently opened an office in Memphis. They are sharing office space with the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center (MSPJC), a “multi-issue, multi-race organization whose mission is to engage, organize, and mobilize communities to realize social justice through nonviolent action.”
TIRRC has been the lead organization lobbying for “tuition equality” (meaning citizens and illegal immigrants get the same state benefit), when the first bill was introduced in 2014. MSPJC, itself a coalition of member organizations was an early supporter of the campaign for “tuition equality.”
Establishing a store-front in Memphis brings TIRRC back to its roots since it’s first executive director, David Lubell started his advocacy career with Latino Memphis as a community organizer, leaving in 2001, to start TIRRC in Nashville with an early infusion of funding from a U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement grant to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce for the Building the New American Community initiative, a pilot program designed to facilitate immigration and integration in non-traditional gateway cities like Nashville.
The grant emphasized training new immigrants how to be civically engaged which translated into working for political power by building coalitions and immigrant leadership. While at TIRRC, in 2005, Lubell launched “Welcoming Tennessee” but left in 2009 to lead the “Welcoming America” organization, the planning of which started in 2007 with funding from the Four Freedoms Fund, a group directly supported by George Soros’ Open Society Foundations (OSG).
Between 2012 – 2013, TIRRC received almost $800,000 of Soros money funneled through his front group NEO Philanthropy.
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) has also been generously funded by Soros over the years in amounts typically exceeding $2 million.
Both TIRRC and the MSPJC collaborate with and financially contribute to Latino Memphis, an organization listed in 2015 as a member of the NCLR’s Affiliate Council which helps guide NCLR’s program and policy initiatives. In 2008, NCLR named TIRRC “Advocacy Affiliate of the Year.”
The NCLR describes Latino Memphis as “the leading voice for Latinos in Memphis and Tennessee.” NCLR helps fund Latino Memphis as do a wide variety of other entities including St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Stand for Children Tennessee, the FBI, Shelby County Schools, the Social Security Administration and CoverKids which is Tennessee’s free health coverage for pregnant women and children who do not have insurance and who do not qualify for TennCare.
TIRRC’s co-director Stephanie Teatro is a leading lobbyist for Rep. Mark White’s bill that would give in-state college tuition to illegal immigrant students. White’s 2015 bill was restricted to grantees of Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. White invited TIRRC’s Teatro to testify due to her “extensive knowledge on this and explain what DACA is.” However, Teatro neglected to inform the committee that DACA’s requirement of a “clean criminal background check” allows for certain criminal convictions and gang membership. Nor did Teatro tell the committee that a month prior to her testimony, an ICE raid resulting in arrests of gang members and sex offenders included twenty-four DACA grantees, or that two months prior to her testimony a known gang member and DACA grantee was charged for committing four murders.
Latino Memphis members have also lobbied Tennessee legislators to pass the in-state tuition bill and in 2016 honored Rep. White for his efforts in this regard.