NASHVILLE, Tennessee–On Tuesday, the Tennessee General Assembly declared it will sue the federal government over its refugee resettlement program on Tenth Amendment grounds. The State Senate passed a resolution authorizing that lawsuit in a 29 to 4 vote one day after it passed the Tennessee House by a 69 to 25 margin.
“Today we struck a blow for Liberty by finally adopting SJR467,” State Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville), the co-sponsor of the resolution who shepherded it through the State Senate, tells Breitbart News.
“The General Assembly clearly understands the importance of public safety and state sovereignty as demonstrated by the overwhelming support of this Resolution for which we are thankful. The Syrian surge heightens our sense of urgency to get this properly before the courts, and we urge the Attorney General to act without delay,” Norris adds.
Tennessee, which withdrew from the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program in 2008, will now become the first state to sue the federal government over its operation of the program within the borders of its state on Tenth Amendment grounds. Alabama and Texas are currently suing the federal government over the refugee resettlement program on the narrower grounds that it has failed to comply with the Refugee Act of 1980.
“As a state legislator, it is my duty to fulfill my oath and to exercise Constitutional authority,” House sponsor State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) tells Breitbart News.
“I take it seriously to do all I can to protect the sovereignty of our great state. Either we abide by the Tenth Amendment or we ignore it,” she adds.
“It’s time for states to say no more federal overreach and [I] really believe that the federal government was created by the states and not the other way around,” Weaver says.
“Proud to have been involved in the process. It’s been a long road,” State Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) tells Breitbart News, adding:
I held our first hearing in 2013 to look into this issue and I believe we have exhausted very option other than a law suit. I am very proud of [House resolution lead sponsor] State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) and her steadfastness, as well as the House Republican Caucus for sticking with this fight to this conclusion.
The House added an amendment to the resolution that first sailed through the State Senate in February which specified the lawsuit would be conducted at no cost to the state. The State Senate passed that amended resolution Tuesday.
It is now a certainty that Tennessee will sue the federal government.
The only unknown is whether Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, will add his support to the resolution, and whether Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery will represent the Tennessee General Assembly.
Haslam previously indicated he has reservations about the law suit.
Under Tennessee law, resolutions of the Tennessee General Assembly do not require the governor’s signature to become effective.
The resolution calls for the Attorney General to consider representing the General Assembly in federal court. Should the Attorney General choose not to represent the General Assembly, the Thomas More Law Center, a respected public interest law firm, has said it will represent the state at no cost.
It is unclear how long the General Assembly will give the Attorney General to make up his mind.
Tennessee is one of twelve states that have withdrawn from the program in which the federal government has, without statory authority, handed over the resettlement of refugees to “voluntary agencies” (VOLAGs) under a regulation concocted from thin air by the Department of Health and Human Services known as “the Wilson-Fish alternative program.”
The other Wilson Fish alternative program states are Alaska, Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont.
State legislatures, governors, and gubernatorial candidates in several of these states have already expressed an interest in following Tennessee’s lead or joining Tennessee’s lawsuit, sources tell Breitbart News.
As Breitbart News reported, the operation of the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program has become a lucrative industry for a number of voluntary agencies, many of which are affiliated with Christian organizations.
The passage of the resolution is timely, as the Obama administration has stepped up its efforts to increase refugee resettlement recently.
The administration announced it would accelerate the vetting time for Syrian refugees from two years to three months in order to meet its self- imposed goal of bringing in 10,000 refugees from that country during the fiscal year which ends in September.
In March, the Partnership for a New American Economy, a left-wing pro-immigrant group funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and several corporate executives, along with the George Soros-funded Welcoming America, announced that they have selected twenty American communities to receive “Gateways for Growth” financial grants because of their receptive attitude to immigrants.
Pro-immigrant activists within and external to the U.S. State Department appear intent on distributing resettled refugees to many small and medium-size cities around the country.
In South Dakota, for instance. a Wilson-Fish alternative program state, the small city of Aberdeen (population 26,000) has recently been targeted by that state’s voluntary agency, Lutheran Social Services, as a direct refugee resettlement site.
The Tenth Amendment case against the federal government’s operation of the refugee resettlement program in these Wilson Fish alternative program states is strong, as Breitbart News reported previously:
In 1984, Senator Pete Wilson (R-CA), concerned at the disproportionate number of refugees sent to the state of California and the high cost of the program borne by the California state government in the form of payments made to refugees settled under the program who seemed to be unable to establish self-sufficiency in a timely manner, introduced an amendment to the 1984 Immigration and Naturalization Act to address that problem.
On October 2, 1984 when Senator Wilson introduced Amendment No. 6965 to the Immigration and Naturalization Act (which would subsequently be known as the Wilson-Fish amendment), he stated:
‘The specific intention of this amendment is to encourage refugee self-support and employment in California, a State which consistently receives at least 22 percent of all incoming refugees. A disproportionate number of refugees end up on welfare rolls. The language in this amendment will allow alternative approaches to this welfare dependency cycle.’ (emphasis added)
The language of the amendment, which was incorporated into the law passed in 1984, reads:
‘[T]he Secretary shall develop and implement alternative projects for refugees who have been in the United States less than thirty-six months, under which refugees are provided interim support, medical services, support services, and case management, as needed, in a manner that encourages self-sufficiency, reduces welfare dependency, and fosters greater coordination among the resettlement agencies and service providers.’
The Wilson-Fish amendment does not mention or even allude to using the Secretary’s authority to fund Wilson-Fish alternative projects as a way to usurp the authority of state governments, such as whether a state would even agree to a refugee resettlement program operating in the state.
Tennessee State Rep. Weaver sums up the attitude of most Tennesseans to the federal government’s continued efforts to tell states what they are allowed to do under the Obama administration.
“There are numerous other departments of federal overreach we need to push back as well. To name a few—EPA, education, and health care, and Second Amendment rights,” Weaver tells Breitbart News.
“By golly, guess what? We the people of Tennessee are responding!” she adds.