Tennessee sues federal government over refugee program

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Monday the state of Tennessee filed suit against the federal government on the basis of the 10th Amendment, citing states should have the final say on the issue of claiming refugees, the Tennessean reported.

Tennessee officials claim the federal government is ignoring the provisions of the Refugee Act of 1980, which says the U.S. must devise protocol for the intake and settlement of refugees. Tennessee legislators are also citing the 10th amendment, believing the federal government is abusing powers that have not been granted by the states.

As filed in the complaints by the state of Tennessee, lawmakers are wanting a resolution in the costs incurred by the state in regards to refugee resettlement. Tennessee also says it does not want to bring in any further refugees until the federal government properly institutes a plan that funds the distribution of those fleeing persecution.

“Plaintiffs will suffer significant and irreparable harm unless this Court intervenes,” reads the state’s motion.

According to the Tennessean, the lawsuit points out that despite the State of Tennessee having opted out of the federal refugee resettlement program, the federal government has kept sending the refugees, paying Catholic Charities of Tennessee to oversee the resettlement of over 2,000 refugees during fiscal year 2016.

“Operation of the federal refugee resettlement program commandeers Tennessee’s funds through Medicaid with the threatened loss of nearly $7 billion, amounting to 20 percent of its overall state budget — money that is needed to fund services that are critical to the health and welfare of countless Tennesseans,” the lawsuit states.

Among the defendants pinned by the the state of Tennessee are the U.S. Department of State, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris stated in a news release that the lawsuit should not be interpreted as criticism of the Trump administration.

“We want to convey to the President that we support his efforts concerning immigration and refugee resettlement and believe this suit for declaratory relief is consistent with what would likely be his position regarding states like Tennessee which have withdrawn from the refugee resettlement program but are forced to continue paying costs associated with it,” he said.

Tennessee’s ACLU and the state’s Immigrant and Refugee Right’s Coalition both condemned the lawsuit, claiming it will stir up a “culture of fear” and will “negatively affect” the refugee community.

“Amidst the largest displacement of people since World II, the president has already brought the entire refugee resettlement program to a grinding halt, shutting our doors on families fleeing war and violence,” said the TIRRC Executive Director Stephanie Teatro. “Not wanting to be outdone by the federal government, our legislature is proceeding with this extreme lawsuit in hopes of locking the door and throwing away the key.”

H/T: Tennessean

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