refugees

Mayor Jacobs says Knox County to remain in refugee program

Gov. Bill Lee, right, and Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs meet at the state Capitol in Nashville on Feb. 4, 2019. (Photo: Gov. Bill Lee’s office)

Glenn Jacobs, the libertarian Knox County mayor best known for his role as WWE star Kane, is joining Republican Gov. Bill Lee in giving consent to the remain open to the federal refugee resettlement program.

“I have found, overwhelmingly, the people in this program come here to be contributors to society, to breathe the air of the greatest nation on the planet as free men and women,” Jacobs said in a statement.

Jacobs said 99 refugees were resettled in Knox County in 2018.

Here’s the full release from Jacobs’ office:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—Today Governor Bill Lee announced his consent to initial refugee resettlement in Tennessee in response to Executive Order 13888 issued by President Donald J. Trump in September. This Executive Order requires consent from both local and state governments to allow refugee resettlement.

Gov. Lee said, “The United States and Tennessee have always been, since the very founding of our nation, a shining beacon of freedom and opportunity for the persecuted and oppressed, particularly those suffering religious persecution.” He also expressed his consent to working with President Trump and his administration to responsibly resettle refugees.

A refugee is a person who has fled their country of origin specifically because of past persecution or a fear of future persecution based upon race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. A refugee does not include a person who has left their home country solely to seek a more prosperous life here.

Knox County has been welcoming refugees through Bridge Refugee Services since 1982. Ninety-nine refugees were resettled in Knox County in fiscal year 2018.

Continue reading

Lee announces Tennessee will keep accepting resettled refugees

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a groundbreaking event in Nashville on Dec. 13, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

First-year Gov. Bill Lee says he won’t seek to opt-out of the federal government’s refugee resettlement program in Tennessee. President Trump in September issued an executive order giving state and local governments control over whether to continue to allow refugees to be resettled in their areas.

“The United States and Tennessee have always been, since the very founding of our nation, a shining beacon of freedom and opportunity for the persecuted and oppressed, particularly those suffering religious persecution,” Lee said in a release. “My administration has worked extensively to determine the best outcome for Tennessee, and I will consent to working with President Trump and his administration to responsibly resettle refugees.”

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) issued a joint statement to say their preference would have been for Lee to reject further resettlement:

“Both our nation and the state of Tennessee have been extremely welcoming to immigrants throughout modern history. In 2016, the General Assembly adopted a resolution expressing the desire of our citizens to file a federal lawsuit to halt refugee resettlement in Tennessee. Our opinion has not changed on this issue since legal action was taken, and our personal preference would have been to exercise the option to hit the pause button on accepting additional refugees in our state. However, the federal order makes this the sole decision of the Governor, and he has made his call.”

Judge’s rejection of TN refugee resettlement lawsuit appealed

The Thomas More Law Center, which is representing the state legislature in a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s resettling of refugees in Tennessee, is appealing a judge’s dismissal of the case. The Tennessean reports a formal notice of appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was filed Thursday with approval of lawmakers involved in the matter.

Continue reading

Judge dismisses legislature-mandated lawsuit over refugees

U.S. District Court Judge S. Thomas Anders on Monday dismissed the state of Tennessee’s lawsuit against the federal government over the refugee resettlement program  — mandated by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature after the state attorney general refused to file it, reports the Associated Press.

Continue reading

ACLU, refugee support groups seek to intervene in legislature-launched lawsuit

News release from American Civil Liberties Union

JACKSON, Tenn. — Groups serving Tennessee refugees are taking legal action against the state legislature’s efforts to block refugee resettlement.

State lawmakers who oppose refugee resettlement sued the federal government in March, contending that the federal refugee resettlement program improperly impinges on state sovereignty. The Tennessee attorney general previously declined to file the suit, concluding it would likely lose in court.

The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Tennessee represent the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Bridge Refugee Services Inc., and the Nashville International Center for Empowerment, which are seeking to intervene in the case to defend refugee resettlement in Tennessee. The groups also filed legal arguments explaining why the General Assembly’s lawsuit should be thrown out.

Continue reading

Fed lawyers: TN law doesn’t allow legislators to bring refugee lawsuit on behalf of the state

In a 48-page motion filed Thursday, U.S. Department of Justice attorneys asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit over refugee resettlement in Tennessee that was filed by a law firm advocating for states’ rights in response to a resolution passed by the legislature last year.

From The Tennessean’s report:

Among the federal government’s various arguments is that Tennessee law does not allow the General Assembly to bring the lawsuit on behalf of the state.

“Statutes enacted by General Assembly make clear that the authority to represent the state in litigation belongs exclusively to the Attorney General,” the motion states, while pointing out that the state’s attorney general declined to initiate the lawsuit.

At one point, the federal government also says the claim that Tennessee has been forced to spend state funds as part of refugee resettlement is “logic-defying.”

The state’s lawsuit came after lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a resolution in 2016 approving legal action and after Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery declined to initiate the case. Instead, the state’s case was brought forth by the Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based legal group.

TN lawsuit over refugees finally filed

(Note: A responsive press release from Tennessee ACLU is below this release.)

Thomas More Law Center news release via Senate Republican Caucus

ANN ARBOR, MI – The Thomas More Law Center, a national nonprofit public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI, today filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the State of Tennessee, the Tennessee General Assembly, and two State legislators, challenging the constitutionality of the federal refugee resettlement program as a violation of the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the principles of State sovereignty.
Defendants in the lawsuit include the U.S Departments of State and Health and Human Services, and their respective Secretaries.
Assisting the Thomas More Law Center, pro bono, is attorney B. Tyler Brooks with the law firm of Millberg Gordon Stewart PLLC located in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Continue reading

Alexander, Corker see Trump’s new travel ban as an improvement

Some Republican senators who were critical of President Trump’s first executive order restricting travel from seven majority Muslim nations see his new version, covering six countries with revisions otherwise, as a substantive improvement, reports Politico. That includes Tennessee’s two U.S. senators.

Excerpt:

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who said Trump’s initial ban “needed more vetting,” on Monday said the revised version “appears to be a wiser approach to reviewing how we scrutinize those traveling to the United States from war-torn countries.”

Still, Alexander added, Monday’s order “should last only as long as it takes to complete the review” of immigrant vetting procedures that Trump has proposed.

…Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, who also criticized Trump’s January travel ban, offered some limited praise for the roll-out of the new plan.

“I am very encouraged by the inter-agency approach the administration has taken to develop and implement the revised executive order,” said Corker, adding that he was pleased that Iraq was removed from the countries subject to visa restrictions. The Tennessee Republican also said reviewing the nation’s screening and vetting procedures is “an appropriate step” and that he is hopeful these programs will then be reinstated.

Norris seeks meeting with Trump administration on refugees, lawsuit

State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris says he is putting on hold plans for filing a lawsuit against refugee resettlement in Tennessee while seeking a meeting with officials of President Trump’s administration, reports The Tennessean.

Norris, R-Collierville, said Thursday he has talked with U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Memphis attorney John Ryder about the refugee situation. Trump arranging a meeting with the Trump administration to discuss state lawmakers’ concerns over the federal refugee program. Trump recently issued a controversial executive order on refugees.

Ryder, who has served as general counsel for the Republican National Committee since 2013, has an established relationship with Reince Priebus, who is Trump’s chief of staff.

“(Blackburn) agrees that this is an opportunity and encouraged me to pursue it so she may be helping us to settle it as well,” Norris said.

…Trump’s order, which caused widespread confusion and generated protests immediately after it was announced on Jan. 27, called for a travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days while also suspending all refugee admissions for 120 days.

… Norris pointed to a section of Trump’s executive order which leads him to believe the new administration might be open to suggestions from states like Tennessee.

“To that end, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall examine existing law to determine the extent to which, consistent with applicable law, state and jurisdictions may have greater involvement in the process of determining the placement or resettlement of refugees in their jurisdictions and shall devise a proposal to lawfully promote such involvement,” the order states.

In the event that he is able to secure a meeting, Norris said he would go to Washington, D.C. with someone from the Thomas More Law Center, the Michigan-based legal group that the legislature hired to represent it in a potential lawsuit.

“It’s well-timed, it’s a good opportunity for us to air our grievances short of filing suit, although we are still prepared to proceed with the suit, once the 120-day period expires,” Norris said, adding that the lawsuit could go forward depending on what the Trump administration decides to do in the future.

Thousands attend TN protests onTrump immigration moves

There were protests aimed at President Donald Trump’s moves on refugees and immigration across Tennessee on Wednesday. Stephanie Teatro, a co-director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, which organized protests under the title “We All Belong,” tells The Tennessean that 3,500 persons attended the Nashville event, apparently the largest in the state.

Metro police estimated at one point that there were 1,500 demonstrators and said everything went well. The event included translation services in Somali, Arabic and Spanish, as well as voter registration tables.

About 2,000 people came to the Memphis vigil, about 1,500 in Chattanooga, over 1,000 in Knoxville, about 600 in Murfreesboro and 200 in Sewanee, Teatro said.

Here are some other reports on the protests appearing in Tennessee media:

Continue reading