Tennessee State Senator: ‘AG Must Act Without Further Delay’ to Protect Against Refugee Public Health Risk

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Nashville, Tennessee—State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) tells Breitbart News, “The Attorney General must act without further delay to enforce our rights under the Refugee Act of 1980. Public health is at risk, and doing nothing is not an option.”

Norris was reacting to a recent report from Breitbart News that 27 percent of refugees sent to Tennessee between 2011 and 2015 test positive for latent TB infection (LTBI).

The Tennessee Office for Refugees (TOR) is “the subsidiary of Catholic Charities of Tennessee that was hired as the federal contractor to run the refugee resettlement program in the Volunteer State.”

“TOR has not been able to provide evidence that it has ‘assure[d]…… that refugees, known to the agency as having been identified . . . as having medical conditions affecting the public health and requiring treatment [such as active and latent TB], report to the appropriate county or other health agency,’ or subsequently monitored their health status, both requirements of the Refugee Act of 1980,” Breitbart News reported, adding:

Nor has either TOR or the Tennessee Department of Health been able to provide Breitbart News with information concerning the number of these refugees, if any, who were diagnosed with active TB on their arrival, as several other states (Colorado, Florida,Indiana), and one county (in Kentucky) have been able to do.

The refugee health data provided to Breitbart News by TOR makes Tennessee the state with the second highest rate of LTBI among recently resettled refugees in the nine states that have either publicly reported the information, or provided it upon request to Breitbart News.

“These statistics underscore the urgency [of the public health risk posed by the refugee resettlement program in Tennessee],” Norris tells Breitbart News.

“The status quo is a ‘no go’ with me,” Norris says.

Another legislator, State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), agrees with Norris.

“This just proves that the Refugee Resettlement Program is putting our citizens at risk with the diseases they are bringing in,” Beavers tells Breitbart News.

“They are not being screened for disease. In hearings last summer in Tennessee we were told that the state receives no information on who they are or whether or not they are vetted by the Feds, much less whether or not they are bringing diseases into our country and putting our citizens at risk,” Beavers adds.

As Breitbart News reported previously:

Tennessee is one of fourteen states that have withdrawn from the federal refugee resettlement program. In those states, the federal government has hired voluntary agencies (VOLAGs) to manage the resettlement of refugees under the statutorily questionable Wilson Fish alternative program.

In April, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a joint resolution that authorizes the state of Tennessee to sue the federal government over the operation of the refugee resettlement program in the Volunteer State on Tenth Amendment grounds on Tenth Amendment grounds.

Current members of the Tennessee General Assembly are not the only Tennessee politicians expressing concern over the public health risk posed by refugees in the Volunteer State.

Steve Gawrys, who is challenging incumbent State Rep. Charles Sargent (R-Franklin) to represent the 61st District in the Tennessee House of Representatives in the August 4 GOP primary, said in a press release on Wednesday he “has called upon Governor Bill Haslam to force the Tennessee Office for Refugees (TOR) to immediately collect and share detailed information regarding refugees with dangerous communicable diseases with the Tennessee Department of Health.”

“The first step to dealing with the risk of dangerous infectious diseases is for our health officials to be fully and accurately informed about what we are dealing with,” Gawrys said.

Gawrys also hit his opponent, incumbent State. Rep. Sargent.

“As a parent, I am extremely concerned about the infectious diseases that may be being introduced into our communities by those coming from third world countries. But as a community leader I am equally concerned about the fact that our elected officials seem to be completely in the dark about what is happening and are apparently taking no action to protect our families from what is a clear and present danger to us all,” Gawrys said.

“Ignoring the risk from these infectious diseases puts our families in danger and that is not the leadership we need or deserve. Instead of working to protect our community, Charles Sargent chose to use phony fiscal notes to try to block the efforts of his fellow legislators in stopping the flood of refugees into our country,” Gawrys added.

But State Rep. Sargent pushed back against Gawrys.

“I have supported the effort by our Legislature, Governor Haslam and Attorney General Slatery to push back on these forced refugee resettlements; if we cannot assess the risk then we cannot reasonably control it,” Sargent tells Breitbart News.

Breitbart News asked Gov. Haslam for comment but has not yet received a response.

Breitbart News also asked Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County Mayor Megan Barry why the Metro Public Health Department of Nashville/Davidson County has not required TOR to provide it with TB health status reports on refugees resettled in Nashville and Davidson County, but has not received a response.

Breitbart News also asked several members of the Tennessee Congressional delegation for comment, but only Rep. Diane Black responded.

“This report highlights the brokenness of our refugee resettlement program and the risk that it poses not only to our national security, but also to our public health. Stories like this are why I voted against the December 2015 omnibus bill that fully funded this project, and why I am cosponsoring legislation to halt the program altogether,” Black tells Breitbart News.

“I also believe this report highlights the choice that Tennesseans face this November. Hillary Clinton has advocated for a 550 percent increase in Syrian refugees – putting even more Tennesseans at risk to satisfy her liberal agenda. Donald Trump, in contrast, will put the safety of the American people first, which is among the many reasons why he has earned my support,” Black adds.

Black’s challenger in the August 4 GOP primary to represent the 6th Congressional District, former State Rep. Joe Carr, also weighed in.

“It is has long been suspected that the Tennessee Office for Refugees has been part of a social agenda promoted by the Obama Administration that is intent in promoting diversity at the risk of endangering the native Tennessee population,” Carr tells Breitbart News.

“The data reported by Breitbart News in this report only confirms that suspicion,” the former State rep. adds.

“However, what is even more distressing is that for the period of data being reported, 2011 – 2015, Congressman Diane Black along with the Republican Congressional Leadership voted and passed in every instance the necessary funding in the Omnibus Bills to fund the Refugee Resettlement Program that brought those people here who would endanger Tennesseans,” he says.

“In the matter of latent tuberculosis infection and active tuberculosis among refugees resettled in the United States, President Obama is responsible and the Republican Congress is his accomplice,” Carr concludes.

The Tenth Amendment lawsuit planned by the Tennessee General Assembly against the federal government to end the refugee resettlement program in the Volunteer State has not yet been filed in federal court.

When Gov. Haslam chose not to veto the joint resolution calling for the lawsuit, he also asked Tennessee Attorney General Slatery to determine whether the Attorney General should represent the Tennessee General Assembly and the citizens of Tennessee in the planned legal action.

Slatery has not yet completed that determination.

State Senate Majority Leader Norris tells Breitbart News he plans to continue to press the matter with Slatery.

“I hope to meet with General Slatery again next week to press the issues raised in my correspondence of May 23 to Governor Haslam. I have also asked to meet with Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey again about all of this,” Norris concludes.

Should Attorney General Slatery not take up the case, the Tennessee General Assembly could hire the Thomas More Law Center, which has offered to represent the state at no cost, to file the Tenth Amendment lawsuit and represent Tennessee in the matter in federal court.

It is not necessary for the Tennessee Attorney General to join the lawsuit for it to proceed, but his participation will likely eliminate any potential objections the court may have to the standing of the Tennessee General Assembly and the citizens of Tennessee to bring the suit.


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