Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean placed a high priority on meeting the needs of “new Americans” during his two terms as mayor of Nashville. Speaking forcefully against an English-first proposal to launching programs like “MyCity Academy” and “Pathway for New Americans,” Dean looked for ways to politically capture the support of the immigrant constituency and solidify Nashville’s blue vote.
In 2009, Nashville Councilman Eric Crafton proposed an amendment to Nashville’s charter which would have declared English to be the official language of Nashville and Davidson County and which would have limited the use of languages other than English in conducting the city’s business:
English is the official language of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. Official actions which bind or commit the government shall be taken only in the English language, and all official government communications and publications shall be in English. No person shall have a right to government services in any other language. All meetings of the Metro Council, Boards, and Commissions of the Metropolitan Government shall be conducted in English. The Metro Council may make specific exceptions to protect public health and safety. Nothing in this measure shall be interpreted to conflict with federal or state law.
While the proposal ultimately failed to pass, Dean used it to help fire up pro-immigration and business groups in the city by suggesting negative economic impacts and the city government’s moral responsibility to take care of and protect immigrants and refugees, living in Nashville.
Having defeated the English-first proposal, Dean next established the New American Advisory Council with representatives from immigrant and refugee communities. Dean’s collaboration with this council resulted in the “MyCity Academy” program designed to politically empower a “new generation of immigrant leaders.”
Two short years later, Dean recognized June as “Immigrant Heritage Month,” entered into a partnership with the U.S. Citizen & Immigration Service (USCIS) to establish “New Americans Corners” in libraries and community centers as part of his “Pathway for New Americans” agenda helping immigrants become naturalized citizens. These steps culminated in adding the Mayor’s Office of New Americans to focus on engaging and empowering immigrants living in the Nashville community:
“Thousands of immigrants and refugees from countries all over the world have made Nashville and Middle Tennessee their home, and that diversity makes our city stronger,” Mayor Dean said. “Pathway for New Americans and all it offers will help them integrate into our community and provide support as they move on a path to citizenship.”
Under Dean’s guidance, Conexion Americas’ Casa Azafran became a Metro voting site. At the time, Conexion’s founder and director, Renata Soto, was serving as vice-chair of the Soros-funded National Council of La Raza board.
Dean’s Office of New Americans spun off the Metro Nashville Public Schools Parent Ambassador Program using immigrant volunteers to serve as advisors to Metro schools and to assist other immigrant parents in navigating the school system.
Bayan Kokoye, a Kurdish refugee, was among the first group of School Parent Ambassadors to connect with new immigrant parents. Her daughter, Drost, already engaged in political activism through the TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), is the activist who called the U.S. Constitution “a document that writes white supremacy into law” and rejected being called an American – “I don’t like being called a ‘new’ American. I really don’t even like being called an #American. I’m a #Kurd.”
Kokoye’s tweets were written shortly after Dean opened his Office of New Americans and during this same time period Dean praised the self-segregation in “growing enclaves” of new Americans which keep them separated from assimilating into and adapting to the American culture. Many of those Dean referred to during the city’s celebration were brought to Nashville by federal refugee resettlement contractors and are adherents to Islamic sharia law:
The number of foreign-born residents in Nashville has more than doubled over the past decade. And today our city is the proud home of the nation’s largest Kurdish population, as well as growing enclaves of immigrants from Somalia, Sudan and all over the world.
As a by-product of the refugee resettlement industry, Nashville is reputed to have the largest Kurdish community in the U.S. which Kurdish political leaders in the city refer to as “Little Kurdistan.” Members of the Nashville Kurdish community have been especially active in Tennessee politics opposing anti-terrorism legislation, organizing the Tennessee American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC) and more recently, lobbying its anti-Islamophobia agenda at the state capitol.
Drost, a founding member of Tennessee’s American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC), is a student at the University of Tennessee who has helped lead anti-police protests and pro-Hamas rallies.
Dean is a named member of the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE) which promotes legal and illegal immigration. Renamed to the shortened New American Economy (NAE), the coalition is a powerful and well-funded big-business-cheap-labor lobby led by business leaders, former politicians, and chambers of commerce. The NAE continues to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform by highlighting the work ethic and perceived business ambitions of legal and illegal immigrants over native-born Americans and promotes amnesty for illegal aliens, continued refugee resettlement and in-state tuition for illegal alien students.
Cheap immigrant labor also brings “blue” votes in cities with large foreign-born populations as evidenced by the 2016 election. The same proved true in Nashville which was one of only three Tennessee counties won by Hillary Clinton.
Dean understood the potential of capturing the immigrant vote when he was mayor when he launched his Office of New Americans:
The number of foreign-born residents in Nashville has more than doubled over the past decade, and, in 2012, Nashville had the fastest-growing immigrant population of any American city. Today, 12 percent of Nashville’s population was born outside of the United States, and nearly half of those people are recent immigrants who entered the country since 2000.
Shelby County which also has a large foreign-born constituency also went to Clinton. Voters recently elected black lives matter leader and confederate statue destroyer Tami Sawyer to the county commission. The county commission opposed Tennessee’s new sanctuary city law.
The American Immigration Council puts Tennessee’s total foreign-born population at 5% while 4% are native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent and one in three immigrants in Tennessee is a naturalized U.S. citizen meaning they can vote. The total 331,570 foreign-born immigrant figure is consistent with the NAE’s 2016 figure but is based on the 2015 American Community Survey and is likely outdated.
Shortly before leaving office, Dean poured taxpayer money into the Conexion Americas building Casa Azafran to build out the space for Metro preschool classrooms and Metro annually pays to continue to lease the classroom space even though it provides the staff and classroom materials. Conexion Americas serves legal immigrants and illegal aliens.
Conexion Americas is a formal affiliate of UnidosUS (formerly known as the National Council of La Raza). Renata Soto, founder and director of Conexion Americas has led the UnidosUS board as chairman since 2015.