CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (CN) — Stephanie Teatro recalls the April day when federal helicopters circled over a meatpacking plant in Grainger County, Tennessee and Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted its biggest workplace raid in years.
“That really signaled the return to these mass worksite enforcement operations, and Tennessee was the site of the first one,” said Teatro, co-director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.
While detention centers and the Mexican border sit at the white-hot center of the immigration debate, communities in the American heartland also are seeing a change of tone from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
And though Tennessee recently enacted a law that requires local law enforcement to assist in immigration enforcement, immigrant advocates say tough enforcement will hurt the state’s economy.
“We have heard from many small business owners that when there are policy changes or rumors of ICE activity in a community, their businesses suffer because so many families are too afraid to leave their homes or drive,” Teatro wrote.
According to a study by The Partnership for a New American Economy, if 10 percent of Tennessee’s 132,000 undocumented immigrants left the state, Tennessee would lose $21 million in state and federal taxes and $588 million from its Gross Domestic Product.