Lt. Gov. Files Resolution in Tennessee State Senate to Sue Feds Over Refugee Resettlement

The state of Tennessee is one step closer to suing the federal government over the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program. Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey filed Senate Joint Resolution 467 (SJR 467) in the State Senate on Thursday.

The resolution states “that the Tennessee General Assembly directs the Attorney General and Reporter of the State of Tennessee to initiate or intervene in one or more civil actions on behalf of the State of Tennessee or, in the alternative, seek appropriate relief in a federal court of competent jurisdiction regarding the failure of the federal government to comply with the Refugee Act of 1980.”

If the Attorney General of Tennessee fails to act, the General Assembly (the official name for the two houses of the Tennessee State Legislature, the State Senate and the House of Representatives) is authorized to initiate the lawsuit on its own.

“[U]pon receipt of notice from the Attorney General and Reporter declining the initiation of or intervention into a civil action described in this resolution, the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives are authorized to employ outside counsel to commence a civil action effectuating the purposes of this resolution,” it states.

Ramsey, who also serves as head of the State Senate, was joined by five powerful co-sponsors in the resolution, including: Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville, the Senate Majority Leader), Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro, the GOP Caucus Chair), Senator Mae Beavers (R-Lebanon), Senator Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge, the Senate Finance Committee Chair), and Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield).

The chances SJR 467 will pass both the State Senate and the State House of Representatives during this session of the General Assembly, which began this week, look good.

It is unclear, however, if the Attorney General would choose to file the lawsuit against the federal government. Though appointed by the Supreme Court of the State, the Attorney General traditionally follows the directives of the Governor, and current Governor Bill Haslam, a Republican, has failed to act one way or the other on the proposed lawsuit, which has been a matter of public discussion for at least two months.

Knowledge that the passage of the resolution will give the General Assembly the specific authority to pursue such a lawsuit on its own may, however, place political pressure on the Governor to act.

“I’m confident most members of my Caucus will be once given the opportunity to sign on,” Majority Leader Norris tells Breitbart News.

After the resolution passes the State Senate, it will go to the State House of Representatives, where a number of members have already signed a letter requesting the state’s Attorney General file a lawsuit and hire the Thomas More Law Center, a public interest law firm that has already prepared a legal brief to challenge the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program on 10th Amendment grounds in 12 states that are “Wilson-Fish alternative program” states. Tennessee is a Wilson-Fish alternative program state.

“Wilson-Fish alternative program” states are those refers to states that have withdrawn from the program after initially signing up for it subsequent to the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980 where the program is now run by a “voluntary agency” (VOLAG) selected by the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Breitbart News first reported in December that the Thomas More Law Center, a public interest law firm, had prepared a 10th amendment constitutional challenge to the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program for the 12 “Wilson-Fish alternative program” states that have withdrawn from the program after initially signing up for it subsequent to the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980.

“As you know, I called the Lieutenant Governor as soon as I read about the Thomas More Law Center’s offer,” co-sponsor Beavers tells Breitbart News.

“Then I called Senator Mark Norris and he told me the Lieutenant Governor had contacted him after my call,” Beavers says.

“This Resolution reflects our commitment to constitutionalism and our determination to seek redress where the state’s rights are jeopardized,” State Senate Majority Leader Norris tells Breitbart News in an exclusive statement.

“We appreciate the Attorney General’s cooperation in analyzing this case. Although we have other options, we remain hopeful that he will accommodate our concerns. Tennesseans deserve nothing less,” Norris adds.

“It is about time we did something on this,” Beavers adds.

“I expect the vote [on SJR 467] to come up [in the State Senate] in the next two weeks. I would think it would be a no-brainer [for SJR 467 to pass],” Beavers concludes.

Support for the lawsuit is strong in the State House of Representatives as well.

“I have let the Lieutenant Governor know that I am very appreciative that he is taking the leadership in filing SJR 467,” State Rep. Sheila Butt (R-Columbia) tells Breitbart News.

“I believe he will have a substantial majority of the General Assembly who will not only sign on to this Resolution, but will follow his lead in fully expecting action to be taken. The people in the State of Tennessee have been eager for several years now for a State Leader who will stand with the General Assembly and interpose with them for the people when the federal government becomes egregious to our citizens,” Butt adds.

Praise for Lieutenant Governor Ramsey’s filing of the joint resolution poured in from all corners, accompanied by criticism of Governor Haslam’s inaction.

“I want to congratulate Lt.Governor Ron Ramsey for stepping forward and leading on a critical issue confronting Tennessee’s security and sovereignty,” former State Rep. Joe Carr (R-Lascassas) tells Breitbart News.

“It is unfortunate and sad that Governor Haslam has to be called out by the Tennessee General Assembly to do the very thing his oath of office requires; that is protecting of its citizens and defending the state constitution,” Carr adds.

Carr challenged incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander in the 2014 GOP Republican U.S. Senate primary, and lost by a 49 percent to 40 percent margin, much closer than many political pundits thought possible.

“With regard to the merits of the Senate Joint Resolution 467, the merits of the resolution are clear. The federal government is not only in violation of federal for failing to advise Tennessee in the matter of refugee resettlement but is in violation of the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, that expressly gives Tennessee authority about how its revenue sources and taxes are to be spent,” Carr continues.

“Forcing Tennessee to spend state tax dollars on a refugee resettlement program that they had no say in, is a violation of their 10th Amendment and therefore unconstitutional. I believe Lt. Governor Ramsey’s effort to confront the federal will succeed and I stand with him as he leads this fight to defend the security and sovereignty of Tennessee,” Carr concludes.

SJR 467 puts forward two arguments against the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Act.

The first, as articulated in the proposed Thomas More Law Center focuses on the violation of the 10th Amendment associated with compelling a “Wilson-Fish alternative program” state that has withdrawn from the program to pay for the significant social service expenses delivered to the refugees. This, the argument states, constitutes an unfunded federal mandate.

The second argument is that the federal government has routinely violated the “consultation” clause of the Refugee Act of 1980.

Both the state of Texas and the state of Alabama (the latter also a “Wilson-Fish alternative program” state like Tennessee) have filed lawsuits against the federal government using the “failure to consult” argument.

However, as Breitbart News has reported previously, neither have much chance of success since the federal government can argue the provision of any information to the state constitutes “consulting,” and the law does not grant the states any specific power to act if they disagree with the “consultation” provided by the federal government prior the arrival of refugees in their state.

Senate Joint Resolution 467 reads as follows:

A RESOLUTION regarding the commencement of legal action seeking relief, including declaratory and injunctive relief, from the federal government’s mandated appropriation of state revenue and noncompliance with the Refugee Act of 1980 with respect to refugee resettlement in Tennessee.

WHEREAS, the State of Tennessee withdrew from the federal Refugee Resettlement Program in 2007; and
WHEREAS, the federal government reinstated the program by designating a replacement agency and establishing the Tennessee Office of Refugees in 2008; and
WHEREAS, the Tennessee Office of Refugees was selected as the Wilson-Fish provider for the State of Tennessee in 2010; and
WHEREAS, the federal government is actively placing refugees in the State of Tennessee; and
WHEREAS, the State of Tennessee is required to provide certain benefits and services to otherwise eligible refugees, including Medicaid services, or risk losing all Medicaid funding pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1612 and 42 U.S.C. § 1396(c); and
WHEREAS, under the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as construed by the United States Supreme Court in National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius, 132 S. Ct. 2566 (2012), the federal government cannot lawfully coerce the State to provide funding with no real option but to acquiesce; and
WHEREAS, such coercion is also prohibited by Article II, Section 24, of the Tennessee Constitution, which prohibits the expenditure of public money except pursuant to appropriations made by law; and
WHEREAS, by conditioning all Medicaid funding on the requirement that the State provide Medicaid services to refugees absent other input or control by the State of Tennessee, the State is being coerced in violation of both the United States Constitution and the Tennessee Constitution; and
WHEREAS, each member of the General Assembly has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of Tennessee and the Constitution of the United States; and
WHEREAS, if it is constitutionally permissible for the federal government to compel a state legislative body to perform its most important function, the appropriation of state tax dollars, as well as expend its limited resources, personnel, and services on a program from which it has withdrawn, the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is merely words on paper, and the powers of the federal government are unfettered and boundless, allowing it to require the same of any state, for any program, at any time; and
WHEREAS, by conditioning all Medicaid funding on the requirement that the State provide Medicaid services to refugees absent other input or control by the State of Tennessee, the State is being coerced in violation of both the United States Constitution and the Tennessee Constitution; and
WHEREAS, each member of the General Assembly has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of Tennessee and the Constitution of the United States; and
WHEREAS, if it is constitutionally permissible for the federal government to compel a state legislative body to perform its most important function, the appropriation of state tax dollars, as well as expend its limited resources, personnel, and services on a program from which it has withdrawn, the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is merely words on paper, and the powers of the federal government are unfettered and boundless, allowing it to require the same of any state, for any program, at any time; and
WHEREAS, while Tennesseans are proud to be the sixteenth member of these United States, the right of Tennessee to appropriate tax dollars in a manner determined by representatives elected by its citizens is fundamental and cannot be usurped, lest the legislative bodies in all of these United States be considered mere departments of the federal government and rendered impotent and unnecessary; and
WHEREAS, if the federal government intends to overreach its authority to the point that it assumes the traditional constitutional role of a state legislative body, it is only fitting and proper that the very existence, as well as the depth and breadth, of this federal power be clarified and declared in a court of law; and
WHEREAS, the Refugee Act of 1980 establishes a framework for collaboration and cooperation between the federal government and the States in resettling refugees. 8 U.S.C. § 1522. The Refugee Act of 1980 requires that the federal government “shall consult regularly (not less often than quarterly) with State and local governments and private nonprofit voluntary agencies concerning the sponsorship process and the intended distribution of refugees among the States and localities before their placement in those States and localities.” 8 U.S.C. §1522(a)(2)(A).
The federal government’s obligation to consult with the States is thus clear and unequivocal. The federal government “shall consult” with a State regarding the placement of refugees within its borders before those refugees are placed there; and
WHEREAS, the Refugee Act of 1980 requires the federal government to consult with the State regarding the placement of refugees before those refugees are placed within its borders, and that consultation has not occurred; now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE ONE HUNDRED NINTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CONCURRING, that the Tennessee General Assembly directs the Attorney General and Reporter of the State of Tennessee to initiate or intervene in one or more civil actions on behalf of the State of Tennessee or, in the alternative, seek appropriate relief in a federal court of competent jurisdiction regarding the failure of the federal government to comply with the Refugee Act of 1980, as amended, and any actions taken by the federal government, including the President of the United States, the head of any department or agency, or any other employee of the executive branch of the federal government, in violation of federal law or as prohibited by the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, or any other statutory or constitutional provisions of the United States or the state of Tennessee, with respect to the operation or implementation in this state of any provision of the federal government’s Refugee Resettlement Program, including any revision or amendment by regulation or otherwise pertaining to the program.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the civil action shall also seek to prohibit the appropriation of state funds without the specific authorization of the Tennessee General Assembly in connection with the refugee resettlement act.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Attorney General and Reporter, in conjunction with the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, may employ the services of outside counsel to assist in and consult on any such civil action filed on behalf of
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Attorney General and Reporter shall file written notice with the chief clerk of the Senate and chief clerk of the House of Representatives if theAttorney General and Reporter chooses not to initiate or intervene in a civil action pursuant to this resolution.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that upon receipt of notice from the Attorney General and Reporter declining the initiation of or intervention into a civil action described in this resolution, the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives are authorized to employ outside counsel to commence a civil action effectuating the purposes of this resolution.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a certified copy of this resolution be transmitted to the Attorney General and Reporter of Tennessee.

 


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