Tennessee Gets the Green Light to Sue Obama Over Refugee Plans

By Rachel Stoltzfoos Published on May 24, 2016

Gov. Bill Haslam won’t stop the state from suing President Obama over his plan to resettle refugees in Tennessee, he announced Friday.

The state legislature has passed a resolution to sue the government for resettling refugees in Tennessee without first obtaining consent from the state. The intended lawsuit argues the government infringed on powers reserved to the states by the 10th Amendment, and that it ignored procedures for approval of resettlement outlined in the Refugee Act of 1980.

The resolution directs the Tennessee Attorney General to take legal action against the government, and grants the legislature power to hire an outside attorney to file the suit if the AG refuses to sue. Despite concerns about one branch of the state government telling another what to do, and the precedent that would be set by hiring a private law firm, Haslam said Friday he will not veto the resolution, reports the Tennessean.

“I am returning SJR 467 without my signature and am requesting that the Attorney General clarify whether the legislative branch actually has the authority to hire outside counsel to represent the state,” Haslam said in a statement, stressing his concerns about the lawsuit.

“I believe the best way to protect Tennesseans from terrorism is to take the steps outlined in my administration’s Public Safety Action Plan, which enhances our ability to analyze information for links to terrorist activity, creates a Cyber Security Advisory Council, restructures our office of Homeland Security, establishes school safety teams, and provides training for active shooter incidents and explosive device attacks,” he said in the announcement,” he added.

Governors of at least 30 states came out against Obama’s plan to admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country after it was announced in May, citing concerns about the vetting process and national security.

Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris lobbied for the resolution and started an online petition to garner support from Tennessee residents. “Reports that terrorists posing as refugees from Syria may infiltrate Western nations, including the United States, are cause for concern and call for increased protection,” he says in the petition.

Opponents of the resolution said the suit will mark Tennessee as “unwelcoming” and encourages anti-Muslim and anti-refugee sentiments. “By allowing the resolution to proceed and not addressing it’s hateful underpinnings, the governor is enabling dangerous anti-refugee and anti-Muslim sentiment to persist,” said immigrant and refugee activist Stephanie Teatro, according to the Tennessean.


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