Estimates from both ends of the political spectrum on the issue of illegal immigration show steady and dramatic increases in the number of illegal aliens in Tennessee during the Nashville mayoral terms of Phil Bredesen and Karl Dean and during Bredesen’s two terms as the state’s governor.
Bredesen served as Nashville’s mayor from 1991 – 1999 and Tennessee governor from 2003 until the middle of January, 2011. Dean served as Nashville’s mayor from 2007 – 2015.
According to the Soros-funded leftist Migration Policy Institute (MPI), between 1990 and 2000, the increase in foreign-born arrivals to Tennessee more than doubled from 59,114 to 159,004. By the year 2000, almost 40% of foreign-born arrivals to the state, 63,484 were listed as “[b]orn in Latin America (South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean).”
Within this same ten-year span, the number of “non-citizens” as reported by MPI rose from 32,523 to 105,819 representing 66.6% of arrivals. For purposes of its reporting MPI’s definition of “U.S. born” excludes illegal aliens as does its definition of “foreign-born” which:
refers to people residing in the United States at the time of the population survey who were not U.S. citizens at birth. The foreign-born population includes naturalized U.S. citizens, lawful permanent immigrants (or green-card holders), refugees and asylees, certain legal nonimmigrants (including those on student, work, or some other temporary visas), and persons residing in the country without authorization.
The non-partisan Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) which does not support illegal immigration, estimated that in 2007, Tennessee’s illegal alien population to be over 100,000. By 2010, FAIR’s estimate increased to 120,000, a figure confirmed by MPI which provided a demographic spread of the top countries of birth:
- 67,000 – Mexico
- 13,000 – Guatemala
- 7,000 – Honduras
- 6,000 – El Salvador
- 3,000 – India
By the time Bredesen left the governor’s office and the middle of Dean’s term as Nashville mayor, MPI reported Tennessee to be a “new destination state” for foreign-born arrivals defined as “states where the foreign-born population grew at or above twice the national rate between 2000 and 2009.”
In it’s report A Record-Setting Decade of Immigration: 2000 to 2010, the Center for Immigration Studies noted that during this timeframe, the immigrant population in Tennessee grew at 82%, more than twice the national rate of 28% during this same ten-year period.
Illegal aliens were already beginning to stream into Tennessee to work for “big meat” by the time Bredesen was elected as governor:
The Tyson indictment raised questions about the personnel policies of Midwestern and southeastern meat and poultry processing firms. Shelbyville, Tennessee, a city of 16,000 that is 60 miles south of Nashville, is typical of the places with Tyson plants. The number of Hispanic residents rose from 92 in 1990 to 2,343 in 2000, and the 2000 number is considered an underestimate. Many Hispanics live in a trailer park near the Tyson plant.
In 2005, Bredesen’s driving certificate program made Tennessee a magnet for illegal aliens as The Tennessee Star has previously reported:
‘From 1990 to 2000, the state’s Hispanic population nearly quadrupled to 124,000, according to census records. Since July 1 , when the certificate program was instituted, more than 21,000 have been issued,’ the New York Times reported ten months later in May 2005.
‘Gov. Phil Bredesen’s office said the certificates made the state’s driver’s license policy ‘the toughest in the nation.’ But in fact, Tennessee is one of only 12 states that do not require proof of legal residence to drive legally, according to the National Immigration Law Center,’ the Times noted.
By 2006, the program had become such an obvious magnet for illegal aliens coming into the state, along with the associated national security risk, that Bredesen was forced to end the program that he had only two years earlier touted as “a common sense solution.”
“However, in 2006, Tennessee ended its policy of issuing ‘driving certificates’ after the governor’s office was informed that immigrants were traveling from other states to get the certificates using forged documents,” the Johnson City Press reported:
‘At this point it just seems that we’ve got this very … serious problem, and we really felt that the appropriate thing to do was to suspend this program,’ Bob Corney, then-spokesman for Gov. Bredesen, told the Los Angeles Times.
In 2012, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean acknowledged the increase in foreign-born arrivals in his city:
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.
During his time as mayor, Dean prioritized programming for “new Americans” and collaborated with groups like Conexion Americas and the TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, both of which provide services and advocacy for legal immigrants and illegal aliens.
Bredesen and Dean have looked for politically palatable ways to support illegal aliens. In 2010, when the Obama administration sued the state of Arizona after passing one of the toughest anti-illegal immigration state laws, Bredesen’s objection to Obama’s lawsuit was simply that it would hurt Democratic candidates running in tight races.
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Chris Alto is an investigative reporter at The Tennessee Star.