immigration

Lee joins Iowa counterpart in calling for congressional hearing on unaccompanied minors

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference in Nashville on March 22, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Lee is joining Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds in calling on a congressional hearing on unaccompanied minors being flown to their states by the federal government.

Here’s the release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds joined with U. S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in calling for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding the crisis at the southern border and the ensuing flow of unaccompanied minors to states.

“We are writing to support your continued calls for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold an oversight hearing regarding the current border crisis,” the governors wrote in their letter to Senator Grassley. “We believe this hearing should also address the Biden Administration’s failure to provide notice and transparency in their movement of unaccompanied migrant children into states.”

Both Iowa and Tennessee have faced a series of disturbing incidents involving the transport of unaccompanied children into respective states, under the cover of darkness, with no advance notification, consent or plan from federal partners.

“These experiences sow seeds of mistrust in our communities, and work to intentionally subvert the will of the people for a secure border and a clear, lawful immigration process,” the governors wrote in their letter to Senator Grassley. “Additionally, the lack of transparency places an undue burden on our law enforcement partners to determine whether these types of flights constitute a criminal act of human trafficking or the federally-sponsored transport of vulnerable children.”

Both Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn and Senator Bill Hagerty support calls for a hearing.

“The Biden Administration is secretly transporting migrants to communities throughout the United States, including in Tennessee, without the knowledge of or permission of the communities involved,” said Senator Blackburn. “President Biden’s failed immigration policies have turned every town into a border town. The Senate Judiciary Committee should immediately hold an oversight hearing on the crisis at our southern border. I applaud Governor Lee for his efforts to protect our state and the people who are being trafficked by the Mexican cartels.”

“Tennessee and states all across the country are seeing the real, tangible results of President Biden’s total failure to solve the crisis at the border—a crisis of his own making—with the systematic resettling of migrants in our communities,” said Senator Hagerty. “Mayors, sheriffs and governors are on the front lines of combatting increased human trafficking and drug smuggling, as well as addressing strains on public resources. I applaud Governors Lee and Reynolds for continuing to draw attention to these matters, asking questions and urging Congress to perform its proper oversight function.”

Gardenhire says resettlement of migrant children is being ‘politicized’

Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), center, attends a hearing in Nashville on Jan. 30, 2018. At left is Sen. Ed Jackson (R-Jackson) and at right is Sen, Paul Bailey (R-Sparta). (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) has written an op-ed published in newspapers around the state that criticizes fellow Republicans for “politicizing the issue of taking care of children and putting them with caring families and sponsors.”

“Shutting our doors locally will only prolong the suffering of these children and their families by keeping them apart and in detention centers along the border instead of in licensed shelters and facilities which specialize in caring for immigrant children,” Gardenhire writes.

Read the op-ed below:

I have just been appointed to a special joint committee of the Tennessee legislature by Lt. Gov. Randy McNally to study the issues surrounding migrant children being brought into Tennessee.

I requested this assignment because the facility in Highland Park in question is in my district. I have known about this for several months and have spoken to Rev. Kevin Wallace about any help I can offer for the care of these children.

My hope is for us to look at — as Sgt. Joe Friday from the 1950s TV show “Dragnet” says — “Just the facts, ma’am,” and not get caught up in the politicizing the issue of taking care of children and putting them with caring families and sponsors.

Almost two years ago, I went on a mission trip with three other members of Chattanooga churches plus an interpreter to a Red Zone state, Chiapas, in southwest Mexico on the border of Guatemala. What I saw were situations that any person with common sense would want their children to leave and not come back. I have heard friends criticize the person shown on the news recently dropping her two very young children over a wall so they could be in America. I’m reminded of a Levite woman named Jochebed who did a similar thing thousands of years ago to save the life of her son so he would not be killed. Her son’s name was Moses. Was Moses’ perfect? No. Did God use him to change the world and the Israeli people? Yes.

We need to separate rhetoric from the facts. We need to separate the issue of the border fiasco and how these individuals came to our border from the by-product of the children in the custody of the U.S. government.

Forty-plus years ago, we faced the same issue with Cambodian refugees being brought to America right after the Vietnam War. There was a lot of resistance to having “those people” brought here. More than 100 were settled here in Chattanooga by area churches. They faced the same unfortunate public outcry as we see today.

But think about this: The first flight arrived in Chattanooga last month and two children were reunited with loved ones here while six others were transferred to the shelter.

The mission of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) facilitating the reunification process is to safely care for unaccompanied children until they are able to be placed with a vetted sponsor, usually a parent or close relative.

As part of the unification process, ORR is facilitating travel for the children in its custody to their sponsors to prevent any delays. Their parents and relatives are located across the United States, and ORR contractors use a variety of transportation modes to reunite unaccompanied children with their families. Those methods, which include air and ground transportation, take into account child safety and wellness, travel time and cost effectiveness.

Shutting our doors locally will only prolong the suffering of these children and their families by keeping them apart and in detention centers along the border instead of in licensed shelters and facilities which specialize in caring for immigrant children.

These children leave their homes and travel more than 2,500 miles for weeks and months to come to America because their home countries are dangerous, impoverished and unsafe.

My father’s ancestors came to America from Germany in the early 1700s. On my mother’s side, I’m an 8th generation born in the city of Chattanooga; her family also came from Germany. If your ancestors were immigrants, you should welcome people who want to be here.

I would ask our elected officials not to beat up on children; stay focused on the real problem (the border fiasco) and not the by-product. Tennessee is not obligated to provide any benefits to these children, but it’s the right thing to do. That will be part of the special committee’s discussion.

Speakers form study committee on refugee issues

House members attend a floor session in Nashville on Jan. 12, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Senate Speaker Randy McNally are assembling joint study committee on refugee issues.

“The Tennessee General Assembly filed suit against the federal government five years ago on refugee settlement,” said McNally (omitting that the lawsuit failed in federal district and appeals courts). “With this study committee, we reaffirm that there is a clear and compelling state interest in a sane immigration policy.”

“We must have transparency to address the concerns raised by both members of the General Assembly and Tennesseans,” said Sexton. “I am in agreement with Gov. Lee not to accept any unaccompanied migrant children.”

The panel is entirely Republican: Reps. Dan Howell of Cleveland, Bruce Griffey of Paris, Ryan Williams of Cookeville, Scotty Campbell of Mountain City, and Chris Todd of Jackson, along with Sens. Dawn White of Murfreesboro, Bo Watson of Hixson, Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga, Richard Briggs of Knoxville, and Ed Jackson of Jackson.

Here’s the letter the speakers sent to House and Senate clerks:

Dear Ms. Clerk and Mr. Clerk,

As Speakers of the Senate and House of Representatives of the 112th General Assembly, we hereby create a Study Committee on Refugee Issues to evaluate the number of migrant children being permanently relocated to Tennessee by the federal government, the number of migrant children being flown into Tennessee and then relocated to other states by the federal government, how to increase transparency from the federal government regarding its relocation of unaccompanied migrant children to and through Tennessee, and the impact, financial and beyond, on Tennesseans, as it relates to the federal government’s migrant relocation program. 

House members appointed to the committee are: Representative Howell (Chair), Representative Griffey, Representative Williams, Representative Campbell, and Representative Todd.

Senate members appointed to the committee are:  Senator White (Chair), Senator Watson, Senator Gardenhire, Senator Briggs, Senator Jackson.

/Signed/

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton

Hagerty, Sethi denounce Supreme Court decision blocking Trump from ending DACA

Then-Gov. Bill Haslam, Rep. Mark White, and Sen. Todd Gardenhire pose for a photo in March 2018 with supporters of offering instate tuition for students whose parents brought them to country illegally as children. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican U.S. Senate candidates Bill Hagerty and Manny Sethi are denouncing a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that President Donald Trump can’t immediately dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program from children brought to the country without legal authorization.

The opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, a Republican appointee. He was joined by the high court’s four more liberal members.

Here’s the statement from Hagerty:

The Supreme Court’s decision to prevent the Trump Administration from dismantling DACA, an immigration policy created via Executive Order by the Obama Administration is appalling and another reminder as to why we need to confirm more constitutionalist judges to the federal bench. We need justices and judges who will not legislate from the bench, but respect the Constitution. Joe Biden and a Democrat Senate majority would confirm nominees who will get it wrong every time. In the Senate, I will support constitutionalist judges and work with President Trump to fix our broken immigration system and build the wall at our southern border.

And here is Sethi:

This is a travesty: My parents waited seven years to immigrate to America legally, and they gave back to the community here in Tennessee. It’s incredibly offensive to me as a first generation American to see other people break the law get benefits, and their children be rewarded for it. Congress needs to fix the system by building the wall, ending chain biased migration, and pausing all legal immigration until we get our economy back on track.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Marville), the man Hagerty is hoping to replace, struck a different tone about the decision:

The Supreme Court’s decision will provide temporary relief to current DACA recipients, but it is clear to me that Congress must act to fix our broken immigration system. Congress should work together to achieve a permanent result both for DACA recipients and border security, and any other improvements to legal immigration that we can agree on—this means something the Senate and the House can pass and that the president will support.

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Sethi touts immigration program in Senate race

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi is outlining a three-point immigration program.

“I’m tired of politicians who talk about illegal immigration, but don’t do anything about it. I want to actually stop it,” Sethi said in a release. “As the son of legal immigrants, we must protect the American Dream and that means standing up for American workers.”

Here’s the release from the Sethi campaign:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Republican Senate candidate and conservative outsider Dr. Manny Sethi’s campaign is releasing a 3-point Immigration Policy plan entitled “Protect the American Dream Plan” hot off the heels of his new TV Ad.

The ad, titled “Invasion,” aired nationally and statewide on October 15.

“I’m tired of politicians who talk about illegal immigration, but don’t do anything about it. I want to actually stop it,” said Dr. Manny. “As the son of legal immigrants, we must protect the American Dream and that means standing up for American workers, no matter what the left says.”

“Dr. Manny is the only candidate in this race who is proposing real solutions to our nation’s most pressing issue, not merely repeating talking points,” said Chris Devaney, Campaign Chairman. “He’s not afraid to tackle the illegal immigration issue head on, and this is the type of leadership we need to see more of in Washington.”

Below is Dr. Manny Sethi’s “Protect the American Dream” plan:.

1. Support President Trump and build the border wall.

  • In the month of May there were over 144,000 arrests of people crossing the border illegally. There would have been nearly a million crossings had it not been for President Trump getting a deal with Mexico to stop the caravans. In the past 12 months there have been more than a million arrests made at the border.
  • Our Border Patrol agents are essentially working in a war zone. Our ICE agents are overwhelmed with not only doing their job, but defending themselves from the liberal media who have made them a political target. We must fully support both and empathize with their great work to keep this country safe and uphold its laws.
  • Heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl are flowing across our borders. Violence comes along with it, and a border wall will keep both out.

2. End chain migration and return to a merit-based system.

  • We have a broken system today that favors chain migration. This leads to people coming here illegally, becoming welfare recipients, and then importing their family members who will also go on welfare. American citizens will pay the price for that.
  • We need to switch to a merit-based system that prioritizes highly-skilled immigrants, whose children will grow up understanding the American Dream, and whose presence will make America stronger.
  • Favoring higher skilled workers who will boost our economy is a win-win for our country. Allowing a family to make it in America and live the American Dream while also contributing positively to our economy is a great thing for our country. We must encourage this type of LEGAL immigration.

3. Put an end to birthright citizenship for illegal aliens.

  • We must put a stop to illegal aliens coming into our country, having kids who automatically become citizens, and are able to gain access to government programs. We must protect the rule of law, and end incentives for criminal behavior.
  • Our welfare system must put our veterans and low-income citizens ahead of illegal immigrants. We have to prioritize our own citizens.

 

 

Anti-immigration group attacks Lee’s voucher proposal

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at an economic development announcement in Nashville on March 20, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

An anti-immigration group says Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed voucher program would be available to students who aren’t authorized to be in the country.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for curbing both legal and illegal immigration into the United States, cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Plyler v. Doe of 1982, which established that states must offer public education to all children, regardless of their immigration status.

According to the group:

Despite his promise to dry up incentives attracting illegal aliens to the United States, Governor Lee’s Education Savings Plan will inevitably provide school vouchers for illegal aliens. Vouchers use taxpayer funds and the Plyler holding prohibits school systems from determining which students are illegally in the U.S. Therefore, taxpayer monies can and will be provided for vouchers for illegal aliens.

House panel kills resolution calling for end to birthright citizenship

A resolution to comment President Donald Trump’s call to end birthright citizenship has died in the House Constitutional Protections & Sentencing Subcommittee.

The  panel voted 4-3 on Wednesday to reject the measure sponsored by freshman Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris), the AP reports. Three Republicans and one Democrat voted against the resolution.

Griffey’s resolution calls for ending what it calls “the illegitimate, unauthorized, and illegal practice of bestowing citizenship to those born within the boundaries of our great country whose presence constitutes a violation of United States law and breach of the sovereignty of this Nation.”

Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville) said “God help us” if lawmakers advanced a  the resolution telling people born in the U.S. that they aren’t citizens.

Bill would target landlords of people in U.S. without authorization

The House is advancing legislation targeting landlords who rent to people without proper authorization to be in the country, the AP’s Jonathan Mattise reports. 

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) who saw the defeat of another one of his measures seeking to help fund President Donald Trump’s border wall through fees charged on international money transfers from people in Tennessee who can’t present a driver’s license.

The landlord vote advanced out of the House Business Subcommittee on a 5-1 vote. It now heads to the full Commerce Committee.

Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, policy director at Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, condemned the legislation.

“Representative Griffey’s despicable bill seeks to strip the most basic of human needs from hardworking Tennesseans– the roof over their heads.,” she said in a release. “The bill puts thousands of children at risk of homelessness and harm,  and detrimentally affects their health and their ability to get an education.”

Bredesen touts role in sending Tennessee Guard to border

A new ad from Democrat Phil Bredesen’s Senate campaign touts his decision to send Tennessee National Guard troops to the border when he was governor in 2006.

“When the president said he needed help to secure the border, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen didn’t wait to be asked. And he didn’t play any politics,” the narrator says in the ad. “Governor Bredesen took immediate action and sent 1,600 Tennessee National Guard volunteers to the border.”

The ad follows a commercial run by Republican Marsha Blackburn criticizing Bredesen for suggesting that a caravan of migrants doesn’t pose a security threat to the strongest country in the world. Blackburn’s ad says the caravan includes “gang members, known criminals, people from the Middle East. Possibly even terrorists.”

 

Black makes another immigration proposal in Congress

With early voting set to get underway in the gubernatorial primary on Friday, Republican U.S. Rep. Diane Black has filed a bill seeking to make the act of illegally entering the United States a felony. That would be up from the current misdemeanor level, which is punishable by six months’ incarceration.

Black in May introduced a separate bill to crowdfund the construction of a wall on Mexican border.

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