In 2014, the Latino Task Force of Morristown, the Latino Task Force of Knoxville, and the Community Economic Development Network of East Tennessee helped found “HOLA Lakeway” as a grassroots Latino support organization in the 6 county Lakeway region around Morristown. In 2018, with increasing Middle Eastern and Asian immigrants arriving in the area, the mission was expanded to serve all immigrant groups.
On April 5, 2018, the area was the target of President Trump’s largest Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) raid of undocumented workers to date. ICE agents, supported by TN Highway Patrol, and military helicopters, detained over 100 workers at the Southeastern Provisions Meatpacking Plant in Bean Station. While the raid generated some local political support, it also generated broad community opposition from residents who rallied to support the undocumented workers and their families. The women of HOLA Lakeway quickly became the leading faces coordinating support for the workers. With many partners, including the Tennessee Immigration and Refugee Rights Coalition, the Highlander Center, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, workers’ families bore the brunt of Trump’s public relations stunts, as the IRS investigated the privately-owned meat packing plant’s taxes and practices of hiring low paid immigrant labor, and detaining and deporting undocumented workers.
HOLA Lakeway’s mission is “to facilitate the integration of immigrant families into the fabric of the Lakeway community through the values of empowerment, solidarity, and inclusivity.”
Programming includes Workforce training & development, health education materials including COVID- 19 and vaccines provided through the mobile “HOLA Lakeway on the Move” program, English and Spanish language classes, free immigration legal clinics, emergency food assistance, and working with area school systems to improve integration of immigrant students into public schools. One creative educational effort includes establishing “laundromat libraries” to encourage increased English literacy among women.
Various events provide opportunities to expose the whole community to diverse cultures through the arts, food, and multicultural activities, highlighting diversity while promoting unity.
The youth leadership focused “Elevate” program assists students through various transition phases, such as middle to high school, high school to college, entering the workforce, and adapting to a new country. It provides opportunities for language acquisition, leadership and social skills, academic support, parent engagement, and college preparation.