Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Immigrant advocates host legislators tonight, immigration bills questioned reports that immigration-related bills in the Tennessee legislature are drawing fire from immigrant advocates, such as the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), which is hosting a legislative reception in Nashville tonight.

"Civil rights and immigrant activists say a handful of bills in the Legislature unfairly target foreign nationals, but sponsors of the legislation claim they're just trying to curtail the influx of illegal immigrants in Tennessee."

"Among the proposed bills, one would require driver's license exams be given only in English, another would deny public benefits such as TennCare and driving certificates to foreign nationals, and one bill would prohibit immigrants from getting any state government services if they cannot show they're in the country legally."

At least one aspect of the proposals may contradict existing law.

"TennCare Bureau spokeswoman Marilyn Elam said federal law prohibits any state from denying temporary Medicaid benefits to illegal immigrants. The federal government pays more than two-thirds of the costs of TennCare, which has about 1.3 million enrollees."

"The TennCare Bureau estimates that about 500 foreign nationals, including refugees and documented or illegal immigrants, receive TennCare benefits for up to 30 days at any given time."

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