In November 2020, Tennessee’s Department of Human Services used the state’s bloated TANF fund to award Catholic Charities of Tennessee (CCTN) a $7.3 million dollar grant. The money will be used to help Catholic Charities expand its operations in Middle Tennessee by establishing family resource centers in ten locations – Montgomery, Maury, Marshall, Bedford, Coffee Grundy, Warren, White, Dekalb and Putnam counties.
Family resource centers in Davidson County are staffed to assist individuals including refugees to access public benefits and services. In fact, one such center specializes in assisting refugees. Last year CCTN moved its South Nashville family resource center into the Conexion Americas Casa Asafran building. It now shares space with the Global Education Center and Metro Public Schools, the American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC), and Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON), an organization which advocates for illegal alien “rights” including Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC)* who are currently being transported and housed in Chattanooga.**
As part of their services, CCTN assists in connecting UACs dropped off at the border, to family members in Tennessee who may have also entered the U.S. in violation of immigration laws like the case of Edwin Mejia in Tennessee.
CCTN’s former State Refugee Coordinator Holly Johnson admitted that her agency helps link UACs to their family members in Tennessee. At the US Conference of Catholic Bishops level, taking custody of the UACs is the “doing well by doing good” business – over $23 million dollars in 2019, quite a haul considering that the UAC numbers were extremely low compared to what the Biden administration has unleashed.
Regarding the resettlement of refugees from overseas, it is no secret that Bill Lee is a passionate supporter for spreading them throughout the state. He is joined in his support for the federal program by state Sen. Page Walley who works for an organization that makes money providing refugee resettlement services.
Over the years the refugee mileage placement rules have enabled CCTN to place refugees in many of the counties that the $7.3 million dollars in state money is now funding to help CCTN expand and set up more formal operations.
CCTN’s executive director thanked Governor Lee and the DHS for their largesse in giving them the largest grant in the history of the organization assuming of course that the multi-millions received year after year from the federal government, is ignored.
CCTN wears several hats in Tennessee including operating as the State Refugee Coordinator (SRC) overseeing the federal contractors paid to bring refugees to the state. In 2008, then governor Phil Bredesen formally withdrew the state from the federal program after which the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement chose CCTN to continue the state’s refugee resettlement program.
Once Catholic Charities took over the program opening the TN Office for Refugees and employing the State Refugee Coordinator, the number of refugees being brought to the state increased by over 60% even as numbers were declining nationally.
CCTN’s state plan was to increase the number of agencies resettling refugees so they could increase the number of refugees being brought to Tennessee.This federal program has been a cash cow for CCTN and the federal contractors resettling refugees.
Government funding, in particular for work related to refugee resettlement, has dominated CCTN’s work. For example, the last available CCTN report, FY2015-16, shows just under $10 million dollars in refugee resettlement grants which come from the federal government.
The financial breakdown clearly showing the heavy dependence on refugee resettlement funds was available on CCTN’s website until 2018 – it has now been removed making the organization’s operations much less transparent.
However, according to the financials posted on the Tennessee Secretary of State website, CCTN’s budget appears to continue to be heavily dependent on government funding.
None of the resettlement contractors operating in Tennessee, including CCTN and the SRC, consult with or are accountable to the state legislature which is forced to expend state dollars to operationalize the refugee resettlement program.
For this reason alone there are reasonable and legitimate questions about why the Tennessee state government chose CCTN of all organizations, to infuse with big dollars. Asked another way, why hasn’t the state simply taken back the SRC function so the state can control the number of refugees brought to the state and the amount of state dollars used for the federal program?
On April 16th, Biden signed a memo intended to speed up the arrival of refugees but left Trump’s FY21 low cap in place – that was until the religious groups who need to fill their coffers, raised the roof. By the afternoon of the 16th, Biden caved and promised that by mid-May, the cap for the remainder of the fiscal year, would be raised to over 60,000.
Don’t be surprised if the enhanced vetting criteria put in place by Trump goes by the wayside. In 2016, after Obama announced that the U.S. would take 10,000 Syrian refugees, his administration “repeatedly shortened the timeframe” for vetting these refugees in order to get as close to that number as possible. So when refugee contractors claim that refugees are the most thoroughly vetted immigrants to the U.S…..
On thing is for certain – when the call comes that refugees are ready to come to Tennessee, CCTN will be ready!
*in line with the Biden administration’s unconstitutional rewrite of U.S. immigration law and erase the illegal immigration status of UACs, they are now referred to simply as “UC” – unaccompanied children.
**once UACs are released to sponsors in Tennessee, they are entitled to attend public school.