Last summer, Tennessee state legislators requested a study on foreign-born refugees in the state but have now rejected the findings of the report. The legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee commissioned the study to try to understand the impact on Tennessee’s budget of state-funded services for refugees.
Researchers estimated almost 58,000 refugees living in Tennessee, a number that’s doubled since 1990 and continues to grow faster than the state’s population as a whole, but still makes up less than 1% of the state’s population.
In that period, the state spent $753 million on services for refugees but has received nearly $1.3 billion in tax revenues from them.
Holly Johnson, state coordinator for the Tennessee Office for Refugees, said the findings prove that refugees bring a lot more to the state than they take, but Representative Joe Carr questioned the findings, asking whether they could be trusted if researchers could not determine whether refugees pay taxes in the same way as other residents. Researchers said it was a struggle to find data on refugees and the services they use.
It was the first study of its kind in the state.