todd gardenhire

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.

Dems gain one seat in state Senate, House makeup unchanged

The Senate meets in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

With much of the vote tallied across the state, there were only handful of legislative races still in play.

In state Senate contests, Democratic challenger Heidi Campbell beat incumbent Sen. Steve Dickerson in Nashville, 52% to 48%.

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga held on to a 6 point win over Democrat Glenn Scruggs.

In House races, incumbent Memphis Rep. John DeBerry, who was stripped of his ability to run for re-election as a Democrat, lost to the party’s standard-bearer, Torrey Harris, 77% to 23%.

The open race to succeed retiring Rep. Jim Coley (R-Bartlett) had Republican John Gillespie bear Democrat Gabby Salinas by 485 votes. In another closely-watched Shelby County race, Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) won by 9 points over Democrat Jerri Green.

With most of the vote counted in Rutherford County, Rep. Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna) beat Democrat Brandon Thomas by 9 points.

In Knox County, Republican businessman Eddie Mannis defeated Democrat Virginia Couch by 10 points to keep the seat in the Republican column following the retirement of Rep. Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville). Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) turned back a challenge from Republican Elaine Davis by 6 percentage points.

One comes out, one goes in: Gardenhire misses fundraiser featuring Gov. Lee due to quarantine

Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) attends a floor session to adjust the course of the legislative session in response to the coronavirus pandemic on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican state Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) has missed a fundraiser for his re-election campaign because he was exposed to someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. The event was headlined by Gov. Bill Lee, who only emerged from his own two-week quarantine after a member of his security detail came down with the coronavirus.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports it’s the fifth time Gardenhire has gone into isolation over a potential exposure to the virus. The senator watched the fundraiser via a videostream provided by fellow Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson).

“I wear a mask all the time. All it takes is a split second and Bam, you got it,” Gardenhire said in a Facebook post. “Very GRATEFUL for all my friends and supporters. Thank you. Going to get tested Monday.”

Gardenhire is being challenged by Democrat Glenn Scruggs, an assistant police chief in Chattanooga.

Never assume? Lee loses key Chattanooga Republican on voucher bill

Legislative leaders kick off the joint convention to inaugurate Gov. Bill Lee in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. From left at podium are House Majority Leader William Lamberth, Senate Speaker Randy McNally, Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, and House Speaker Glen Casada. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s administration needs six votes to get its school voucher bill out of the Senate Finance Committee. Until recently, outspoken Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) was believed to be among those expected to vote to advance the measure. Not so, reports Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

“I’d carried every voucher bill for the past six years,” Gardenhire told the paper. “But this was one I could not go along with.”

(Full disclosure: The print edition of The Tennessee Journal was among those buying into the assumption that Gardenhire would be among the bill’s supporters.)

Gardenhire has long fought to make in-state tuition rates available to children brought to the country illegally. A provision of the voucher bill aimed to screen the immigration status of K-12 students is a major reason for Gardenhire’s opposition.

“As you know, I’ve been a big proponent of making sure they get an education they’re supposed to get,” said Gardenhire. “And [Lee] and I have a fundamental disagreement on that.”

Continue reading