Tennessee Gov. Haslam Not Yet Offering Constitutional Challenge to Syrian Refugee Settlement

Gov. Bill Haslam meets with lawmakers in Sparta, Tenn., on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. (AP Ph
AP Photo/Erik Schelzig

Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Haslam is apparently off the list of possible plaintiffs—governors of the 12 “Wilson-Fish alternative program” states where non-profit VOLAGS, not state governments, run the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program—the Thomas More Law Center says it is looking to represent in a constitutional legal challenge to the program.

President Obama plans on using  the Refugee Resettlement Program to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States in 2016.

“We respectfully decline to comment,” a spokesperson for Governor Haslam tells Breitbart News when asked if he will step up to be the plaintiff in that potentially landmark case.

That comment seems to indicate that Haslam will not be stepping up to be the plaintiff in this case.

But in Tennessee, at least, an unwilling governor may not mean the end of a potential constitutional legal challenge to the settlement of Syrian refugees, virtually all unvetted Muslims, some of whom may well be ISIS sympathizers intent on killing innocent Americans.

Notably, Pakistani-born Tashfeen Malik, the 27-year-old woman who, along with her husband, 28-year-old Syed Farook, killed 14 innocent Americans in San Bernardino on Wednesday, received a K-1 “fiancé” visa after being “vetted” by the Department of Homeland Security.

“I think the legislature should hire special counsel,” State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Lebanon) tells Breitbart News.

Beavers added that she “talked to Speaker Ramsey” about this.

In Tennessee, the Speaker of the State Senate, currently State Senator Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville), also serves as Lieutenant Governor.

“The decision of Governor Haslam to not comment either on the merit or the viability of the states to push back against the federal government is unfortunately not surprising and all too common. I always hope that Governor Haslam will one day wake up and discover the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution,” former State Representative Joe Carr (R-Lascassas), tells Breitbart News.

“This is yet another example of Governor Haslam, along with so many of our states governors who believe their roll is that of a serf in subject to the federal government. The issue of refugee resettlement illustrates the need for constitutional conservatives to elect governors who understand, believe and will fight on behalf of their their states sovereignty,” Carr adds.

In August 2014, Carr was defeated in the Republican U.S. Senate primary in Tennessee by Sen. Lamar Alexander, 49 percent to 40 percent.

As Breitbart News reported previously, the Thomas More Law Center, a public interest law firm based in Michigan “has devoted more than six months and much of its legal staff researching the legal authority by which President Obama authorizes un-elected and unaccountable ‘voluntary agencies’ (VOLAGs) to place refugees in states without receiving the permission of the state’s governor.”

“Immediately after the Paris bombing, over 2 dozen state governors demanded a halt or pause to the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program. Their demands, although given lip service, have been basically brushed aside by the Federal Government,” Thomas More Law Center president and chief counsel Dick Thompson tells Breitbart News.

“We’ve drafted a 16 page complaint that we can utilize for any one of the Wilson-Fish state governors. All we need is for one of these governors from a Wilson-Fish state to say I want to file a lawsuit, and we could file one on their behalf within a few days. Moreover, our representation is without charge,” Thompson told Breitbart News on Thursday.

Breitbart News has contacted governors in eight of the 12 Wilson-Fish alternative program states, as well Governor-elect Matt Bevin, a Republican, who will be sworn in as governor of Kentucky on Tuesday. Breitbart News has not contacted the governors of Colorado and Vermont, where the Democrat governors are not opposing the entrance of Syrian refugees, or Louisiana, where Democrat John Bel Edwards was recently elected governor.

The Republican governors of six Wilson-Fish alternative program states, Alabama, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nevada, and Massachusetts, have not responded to Breitbart News.

Idaho Governor Butch Otter, also a Republican, is non-committal.

“I’m sorry but we won’t have any comment today,” a spokesperson for Governor Otter told Breitbart News on Thursday.

“We are reviewing options and no decisions have been made yet,” a spokesperson for Kentucky Governor-elect Bevin’s transition team tells Breitbart News.

Last week, Tennessee State Attorney General Herbert Slatery, at the request of State Representative John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville), issued an opinion that the governor did not have the legal authority to challenge the President’s instructions to bring additional Syrian refugees into the state.

“It is typically the Attorney General who brings a legal action on behalf of the State,” a spokesperson for Tennessee Governor Haslam told Breitbart News late Friday.

Breitbart News asked Governor Haslam’s spokesperson to confirm that the governor has the authority to instruct the attorney general or a designated counsel to file a lawsuit on behalf of the state if he wants to challenge the constitutionality of the Wilson Fish alternative program for refugee resettlement, even if the attorney general has issued an advisory opinion to the contrary.

Governor Haslam’s spokesperson has not responded to that subsequent inquiry.

Dick Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center disagrees with Tennessee Attorney General Slatery’s opinion, as Breitbart News reported:

“The Tennessee Attorney General just came out with an opinion. He says the Supremacy Clause prevents state of Tennessee from stopping the Refugee Resettlement program. However, he never even discussed application of the 10th amendment [in that opinion],” Thompson notes.

As it becomes increasingly clear that Governor Haslam is highly unlikely to step up to serve as a plaintiff in this ready-to-file constitutional legal challenge, state legislators are seriously considering the possibility that the Tennessee General Assembly (the formal name of the Tennessee State Senate and the Tennessee House of Representatives) could step up to serve as the plaintiff in the case.

The Department of Justice is likely to challenge the standing of a state legislature, rather than a governor, to sue the federal government. Should a federal judge decide a state legislature has standing, a constitutional challenge to the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program could go forward in the federal courts with a willing state legislature, rather than a governor, acting as a plaintiff.

Legal experts might consider that possibility a long-shot, but in an era in which many political leaders of both parties seem to lack a backbone, some state legislators in Tennessee and other Wilson-Fish alternative program states may be willing to take that chance.

For its part, the Thomas More Law Center is looking to take on the state of Tennessee, or any of the other 11 Wilson-Fish alternative program states, as a client.

“The Thomas More Law Center has given governors of Wilson-Fish States the option of a viable and meritorious constitutional challenge to the Refugee Resettlement program based on Tenth Amendment state sovereignty principles. It’s up to the people of Tennessee through their elected representatives to decide whether they want to avail themselves of our services to file a federal lawsuit at no charge,” Thomas More Law Center president and chief counsel Thompson tells Breitbart News.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.