refugees

Alexander, Corker draw protesters, offer comment on Trump refugee order

Tennessee’s two U.S. senators, Republicans Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both sent statements to media Sunday offering mild criticism of the way President Trumps executive order on refugees was handled.

Also Sunday, hundreds of protesters showed up at the Corker and Alexander offices to offer criticism in more strident terms with Mayor Megan Barry offering supportive comments, reports the Nashville Scene.

Alexander statement: “This vetting proposal itself needed more vetting. More scrutiny of those traveling from war-torn countries to the United States is wise. But this broad and confusing order seems to ban legal, permanent residents with ‘green cards,’ and might turn away Iraqis, for example, who were translators and helped save lives of Americans troops and who could be killed if they stay in Iraq. And while not explicitly a religious test, it comes close to one which is inconsistent with our American character.”

Corker statement: “We all share a desire to protect the American people, but this executive order has been poorly implemented, especially with respect to green card holders… The administration should immediately make appropriate revisions, and it is my hope that following a thorough review and implementation of security enhancements that many of these programs will be improved and reinstated.”

Start of the Scene report:

Hundreds (maybe even more than a thousand — News Channel 5 was told 1,500) gathered outside U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander’s West End offices this afternoon to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigration. Between chants of, “No wall, no ban,” speakers shared their own stories about coming to Nashville and finding a welcoming home here. Some opened up about how the executive order affects their lives, including taking away their ability to visit family during school breaks.

Mayor Megan Barry also spoke and supported the protesters, urging Nashvillians to create a place that’s welcome to everyone. “America is stronger and better when we have each other’s back. And we have each other’s back in Nashville,” Barry said.

After the cheers, Barry was asked if Nashville would be a sanctuary city, a place that would protect undocumented immigrants. She couldn’t give the crowd the answer it was hoping to hear — which, as someone near me said, would be, “Hell yes!” — but she did say, “I would ask you to help me help the state legislature understand the power that we need here in Nashville. And I will tell you that a sanctuary city, you can use the language, but it’s about the action. The action is in the words and the words are the fact that in Nashville we are not going to make our police immigration officers. They’re not gonna do it.

Note: Politico says Corker and Alexander join a number of other Republican officeholders unhappy with the refugee moves, HERE. There was also a protest march in Chattanooga, reports the Times-Free Press. The Tennessean has a report on the Nashville doings HERE. (Both newspapers include the above Alexander and Corker comments.)

Haslam’s OK with refugee program as is; also with Trump suspending it

Gov. Bill Haslam reiterated his confidence in the country’s refugee resettlement program, but said he understands President Donald Trump’s need to review it.

Further from The Tennessean:

“I think any new president deserves a right to review the process and see if he is comfortable with what we’re doing, if he wants that to be the policy of his administration,” Haslam said. “I think it’s perfectly fine.”

Trump, according to multiple media reports, is expected to suspend the country’s refugee resettlement program, which brings in thousands of people from across the globe seeking asylum. A draft of a presidential executive order says the program would be suspended for 120 days.

The president has already signed immigration-related executive orders this week. On Wednesday he signed two orders that include plans to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and stop federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities” that protect migrants in the country illegally.

There are no sanctuary cities in Tennessee. However, that didn’t stop Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, from filing state legislation Thursday (SB155) that would threaten state funding for any city that adopts sanctuary city policies. Similar legislation filed last year didn’t go anywhere.

… “For me, I looked at it and thought the people that are coming to us are primarily victims of either religious persecution or are living in a war-torn land where they’re trying to escape violence for their family, and that the vetting process we have is a good one,” Haslam said.

State legislative leaders disagree and are in the process of filing a lawsuit for noncompliance of the Refugee Act of 1980 based on the 10th Amendment.

Tennessee became home for 2,051 refugees in past year — 30% increase

Tennessee accepted 2,051 refugees in the last fiscal year, nearly a 30 percent increase from the number of refugees who came to Tennessee in the prior year, reports The Tennessean.

The increase comes with a pending lawsuit – authorized by the Legislature during the past session — challenging resettlement in Tennessee. A private law firm will represent Tennessee in the lawsuit after Attorney General Herbert Slatery declined to do so.

Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said he is committed to following that lawsuit through, even with (President-elect) Trump’s pledge to shut the doors to refugees.

Refugee advocates say they are equally committed to ensuring the nation’s refugee program remains open.

“In the weeks following the election, we have been overwhelmed by an unprecedented outpouring of support for immigrant and refugee communities,” said Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights..  “We will continue to expose and challenge elected officials who undermine the refugee resettlement program for political gain. We cannot let politicians exploit the fears and uncertainty Tennesseans face at the expense of our values. We deserve better and must demand greater leadership.”

…In the past year, the largest numbers of refugees arrived from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Syria and Somalia. More than half of the refugees were settled in Nashville with the remainder settling in Tennessee’s other main urban centers: Knoxville, Memphis and Chattanooga.

TN political talk roundup: Outsourcing, Rusty Crowe, refugees & marijuana

Arguing over outsourcing

Randy Stamps, executive director of the Tennessee State Employees Association, did an op-ed piece a couple of weeks ago in the News Sentinel under the headline, “Outsourcing state services doesn’t save taxpayers money.”

In a rebuttal op-ed Sunday, state Department of General Services Commissioner  Bob Oglesby declares that Stamps’ article “makes misleading and factually wrong claims and chooses to back up his false premise with several charges that are equally incorrect.”

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Outside counsel takes on TN refugee lawsuit

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has signed off on the selection of the Thomas More Law Center to represent Tennessee in a lawsuit that will challenge the federal government refugee resettlement actions, reports The Tennessean. State Attorney General Herbert Slatery had declined to file the lawsuit, despite a legislative resolution calling on him to do so.

The Michigan-based legal group, which will represent the state for free, has taken on a host of conservative legal causes in recent years. Those challenges are on topics including Common Core education standards, hate crimes legislation, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and abortion. On its website, the group also takes a strong stance on Islam, saying “Radical Muslims and Islamic organizations” are trying to wage a “stealth jihad” to take over the nation.

…Calling the law center “an excellent firm” with a strong track record, Ramsey said in a statement that he was confident the organization would represent the state well.

“Our nation is a welcoming nation and our state is a welcoming state. But now more than ever, we must make sure that any refugees placed in Tennessee are fully vetted and any resettlement program is in the best interest of Tennessee citizens,” Ramsey said. “I remain unconvinced that the federal government and their appointed agents have either the willingness or the ability to vet refugees properly or thoroughly. A nation without properly policed borders is not a nation at all. The General Assembly is doing what is necessary to protect the people we serve.”