Tennessee Nears Final OK To Sue Feds Over Refugee Resettlement | Nashville Public Radio

Tennessee Nears Final OK To Sue Feds Over Refugee Resettlement

Apr 18, 2016

Tennessee is moving closer to suing the federal government over refugee resettlement. State lawmakers approved a resolution authorizing the suit Monday night.

The potential litigation is the work of a Michigan-based group, the Thomas More Law Center. The organization will take on the case for free if Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery refuses, which so far he has not done.

Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, hopes the legal action will start a movement.

"I say, 'Let's boogie on. Let's do this.' Other states are going to read our actions and, you know, we just might win our Tenth Amendment issue again," Weaver said. "We just might be able to protect our Tenth Amendment."

The suit over states' rights arises from fears extremists could infiltrate refugee populations. It accuses the federal government of sending refugees to Tennessee without its consent.

Tennessee used to work directly with federal authorities on refugee resettlement. But in 2008, it decided to outsource the job to religious organizations, primarily Catholic Charities.

Now state lawmakers say they're not being briefed enough on refugees. They also say requirements that refugees be provided social services and medical care amount to an "unfunded mandate" from federal authorities.

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition calls the push for a lawsuit "costly and embarrassing."

The resolution was previously approved by the state Senate, which needs to give the OK to minor changes. Given that the measure is a resolution and not a bill, Gov. Bill Haslam doesn't have the option to veto it.