Tennessee Officials Say TANF-Funded Social Service Program Does Not Support Refugees or Illegal Immigrants


Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and members of the state’s Department of Human Services last year granted millions of dollars for social services, and on Monday TDHS officials said they won’t give any to refugees or illegal immigrants.

The Nashville-based Catholic Charities of Tennessee last year received $7.3 million in state grant funds to expand social services to 10 Middle Tennessee counties. Part of the organization’s model is based on liberal services performed in Nashville.

TDHS spokesman Sky Arnold told The Tennessee Star Monday that the money for this program, the Two Generation (2Gen) approach, helps families overcome poverty.

“That is one of our grants. That is one of our 2Gen grants, and the program is for low-income families,” Arnold said.

“They are not targeting refugees or illegal immigrants.”

The Star asked Arnold if, regardless, families who are not U.S. citizens could qualify for those grants. Arnold said Monday that he did not have the contract for the agreement with him but he said it “does not target refugees or undocumented immigrants.”

Staff with Catholic Charities did not return a request for comment Monday, and neither did anyone in Gov. Lee’s office.

TDHS officials said last fall that the grants “will put close to $50 million into innovative programs that move children and their parents towards educational success and economic security.” The federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds these grants, as approved through a collaboration with members of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Catholic Charities said their program is called “Tennessee Serves Neighbors” and would create new family resource centers in 10 Tennessee counties throughout the following two years. Catholic Charities Executive Director Judy K. Orr said at the time that the program would provide job training, life skills, help build stable families and work with healthcare providers.

Catholic Charities said its grant application included a focus on building and operating family resource centers, impacting multiple generations, creating jobs and “leveraging the vast Catholic Church parish network.” The organization touted its experience operating similar programs at the McGruder Family Resource Center and Casa Azafrán in Nashville. One of McGruder’s specialties is refugee resettlement, according to its page at Catholic Charities’ website.

Casa Azafrán’s website said its partners include not only Catholic Charities but also Metro Nashville Public Schools, the American Muslim Advisory Council and Conexión Americas. Officials associated with Tennessee’s American Muslim Advisory Council have previously said the U.S. Constitution “is a document that writes white supremacy into law” and endorsed proselytizing in schools.

Conexión Américas is an affiliate of The National Council of La Raza, now known as UnidosUS, which has ties to George Soros and advocates for policies like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), or “Dreamers.”

A separate program in Chattanooga last month hosted migrant children for their schooling, although they did not attend the Hamilton County Public Schools. The Baptiste Group agency took care of the migrant children through a short-term placement focused on reunification.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]

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5 Thoughts to “Tennessee Officials Say TANF-Funded Social Service Program Does Not Support Refugees or Illegal Immigrants”

  1. Clay

    Why are our hard earned taxed dollars going to anti-american groups like American Muslim Advisory Council and Conexión Americas. Any group that says the U.S. Constitution “is a document that writes white supremacy into law” and endorsed proselytizing in schools should not be in this country.

  2. Mike

    It seems like the Governor will not answer if any tax dollars are going to refugees or illegal aliens. STOP TAKING MONEY OUT OF MY POCKET. Let me choose what I donate!!

  3. Kitty Lenoir

    No tax dollars to illegal aliens or refugees. There are plenty of families in need that are citizens and live in Tennessee. Churches can use private donations to help those people, if their congregation supports that, but I don’t know why they would when there are needy and homeless Tennesseans.

  4. lb

    “Does not target” is NOT a denial! It doesnt mean they arent eligible, it just means they dont spell it out in the grant. THANKS GOV LEE for leaving the MAGNET to come to TN working and the Welcome Mat out to be used.

  5. 83ragtop50

    Thanks, Mr. Lee. Giving away more of my money to “aid” those who should be required to provide for themselves should they be permitted to live in Tennessee. These nonprofits are making a killing diluting the quality of life in Tennessee. I wonder what their administrators are paid.