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Advocates hopeful Tennessee will increase number of refugees resettled

Refugees Ukraine
Posted at 8:09 PM, Jun 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-10 21:31:40-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — There's a good chance the U.S. will see an increase in refugees entering the country with the war in Ukraine. Some of those people may come to Tennessee.

Historically, Nashville has been a place where lots of refugees are settled. The number of people coming in decreased in the past couple years.

Mir Ansari is one of the latest refugees to come to the Middle Tennessee area.

"I was interpreter for U.S. Army. I worked for almost 12 years with U.S. Army in Afghanistan," said Ansari.

He's a champion body builder, an interpreter and a refugee from Afghanistan.

He's lived here for about four months but already has a job to help refugees get settled in Tennessee.

His last memory of his home country was fleeing from the airport in Kabul when thousands of refugees tried to get out after the U.S. left the country.

He said he operated as an interpreter for the Army, there too.

"If we don't help them, it's very difficult to let all of the people in," he said of the many people trying to leave the country.

It was his only option as well.

"I will die if I stay in Afghanistan, because I helped the army in front of the Taliban. In their faces, they can find me easily," he said.

Advocates for Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) like Judith Clerjeune said now is an encouraging time.

While some state lawmakers in Tennessee have been resistant to new people coming here, Gov. Bill Lee expressed interest in accepting Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.

"There have been talks about providing refuge for Ukrainians," said Clerjeune. "I don't know how many will be allowed in the U.S. but I would hope as a country, we would see the need to provide refuge for people fleeing their home."

On the federal level, the number of refugees was reduced under President Donald Trump to 15,000 per year.

However, that number is increasing again under President Joe Biden.

Clerjeune hopes Tennessee will continue to accept them.

"It's a matter of human decency in a sense," she said.