Knoxville: (865) 540-1311
| Chattanooga: (423) 954-1911
Knoxville: (865) 540-1311 Chattanooga: (423) 954-1911

Rise for refuge

Presidential order drastically cuts refugee resettlement, spurs call to action

KNOXVILLE & CHATTANOOGA, TN—While more than 25 million refugees have fled their homes due to persecution or conflict, never to return, the administration announced it will cut refugee admissions 40 percent, from 30,000 last year to 18,000 in 2020.

The move further diminishes refugee admissions to an unprecedented historic low and continues to decimate the refugee resettlement program. For nearly four decades, the average number of refugees allowed admittance to the US each year has been 95,000.

“This announcement comes as a tragic blow not only to vulnerable people fleeing violence and persecution, but also to this country’s humanitarian legacy,” said Martin Lester, Chair of Bridge Refugee Services Board of Directors. “Refugees have been coming to East Tennessee for decades, supporting our local economies and contributing to our communities. We have a responsibility and privilege to welcome these newcomers and not forget we ourselves were once newcomers. This is truly a disservice both to our cities and to refugees.”

In addition, the President has issued an executive order allowing states and local governments to deny entry to refugees already approved for travel.

“The latest decision to close our doors even further to the world’s most vulnerable citizen comes at a cost to all of us,”said Marina Peshterianu, Bridge Refugee Services Associate Director. “Since 1982, Bridge has settled thousands of refugees from all over the world. We have seen these families successfully integrate into our communities and support our country as American citizens. Chattanooga and Knoxville would not be the same without their presence here.”

Bridge Refugee Services will continue to welcome refugees and provide services to those who are already here.  As an established, experienced resettlement agency with incredible institutional knowledge Bridge remains committed to protecting the core of our refugee resettlement program while growing services for refugees and immigrants already in East Tennessee.

Now, more than ever, we need partners like yourself to join us in saying that refugees are welcome to Tennessee. Call your Members of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor the GRACE Act, a bill that would help return refugee arrival numbers to historic averages and preserve the legacy of resettlement.

About Bridge Refugee Services: Bridge’smission is to provide opportunities for refugees to rebuild their lives, after suffering persecutions, so that they become productive, contributing members of the community. Refugees and former refugees work in higher education, health systems, manufacturing, retail and as entrepreneurs. Bridge also serves Special Immigrant Visa holders who worked with the US Army abroad.  The three pillars of refugee integration are: learning English, employment, and community engagement.


Refugee resettlement facts 

  • Worldwide there are 65 million displace people, including 22.5 million refugees
  • Fewer than 1% of refugees will ever be resettled to a third country
  • Since the program’s inception, the U.S. has set an average annual refugee admissions goal of 95,000 and resettled an average of 80,000 refugees per year
  • Bridge Refugee Services has resettled 2,442new refugee arrivals since 2009
  • Bridge resettled 150 new arrivalsto Chattanooga and Knoxville in 2018
  • Bridge served 150 secondary migrant arrivalsto Knoxville in 2018
  • 85 percentof Bridge clients become self-sufficient within 90-180 days
  • Refugees work in manufacturing, hospitality, food industry, healthcare, the school system and service industry.
  • 13 percentof refugees in the U.S. are entrepreneursvs. 11.5 percent of non-refugee immigrants and 9.0 percent of the U.S.-born population.
  • $4.6 billion in refugee business incomein the U.S.
  • $77.2 billion: Household incomeof refugees (2015) in the U.S.
  • $20.9 billion: Taxes paid(2015) in the U.S.
  • $56.3 billion in disposable income(2015) in the U.S.


Contact your representatives

Recent news has revealed a refugee admissions ceiling of zero is being considered for fiscal year 2020. Eliminating refugee resettlement to the U.S., despite facing the largest displacement crisis in global history, would be an abdication of U.S. leadership and would have grave, long-term implications. Lowering the refugee admissions ceiling any further than the 2019 historic low of 30,000 is unacceptable. Senators and Congressional representatives are home on recess right now. Use this opportunity to write, call, make an appointment—make your voice heard on behalf of refugees.


U.S. Senate
Lamar Alexander- (R – TN)

Knoxville Office
Howard H. Baker, Jr.,
U.S. Courthouse
800 Market Street, #112
Knoxville, TN 37902
Phone: (865) 545-4253

Download a letter for Sen. Alexander’s Knoxville office

Chattanooga Office
Joel E. Soloman Federal Building
900 Georgia Avenue, #260
Chattanooga, TN 37402

Phone: (423) 752-5337

Download a letter for Sen. Alexander’s Chattanooga office


Marsha Blackburn – (R – TN)
Knoxville Office
800 Market Street
Suite 121
Knoxville, TN 37902
Phone: (865) 540-3781

Download a letter for Sen. Blackburn’s Knoxville office

—Chattanooga Office
10 West M.L. King Blvd, 6th Floor
Chattanooga, TN 37402
Phone: 423-541-2939

Download a letter for Sen. Blackburn’s Chattanooga office


U.S. House
Tim Burchett – (R-TN 2ndDistrict)
800 Market Street, Suite 110
Knoxville, TN 37902
Phone: (865) 523-3772

Download a letter to Rep. Burchett


Chuck Fleischmann – (R-TN 3rd District)
900 Georgia Avenue, Suite 126
Chattanooga, TN 37402
Phone: (423) 756-2342

Download a letter to Rep. Fleischmann


Support Bridge Refugee Services as it advocates for refugee families and provides

critical services to help them rebuild their lives.