Tennessee Atty Gen.: State cannot refuse refugees

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Tennessee Attorney General has released an opinion saying the state cannot refuse to accept people the federal government has admitted to the country as refugees.

The opinion was requested by State Representatives John Ray Clemmons, Jason Powell and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart after calls by state lawmakers to deny entry to Syrian refugees who are vetted by the U.S. government.

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The attorney general says “such a refusal would impinge on and conflict with the federal government’s authority to regulate the admission of aliens to the United States and thus would violate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

MORE: While House letter to Gov. Haslam

The opinion goes on to confirm that a refusal could nothile House letter to Gov. Haslam be based on an individual’s country of origin or religion.

In response to the opinion, Rep. Clemmons reiterated his earlier request to Governor Bill Haslam: “In my statement of November 18, 2015, I called on President Obama and the federal government to re-double their efforts to ensure that a terrorist is unable to hide among the thousands of innocent refugees seeking to resettle in our country. I also requested Governor Haslam and my colleagues in the General Assembly to allocate some of our state’s approximately one billion dollar surplus to increase funding for local public safety officers and the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security to complement the efforts of the federal government and help ensure that Tennesseans are protected and our families remain safe. Today, I respectfully reiterate those requests.”

Representative Powell added, “As a lawmaker whose district includes a large number of refugees, I am glad to be able to relieve their fears. I also look forward to hearing testimony later this month when the Senate State and Local Government Committee and the House State Government Committee hold a joint meeting to address the current refugee situation.”

That hearing will be held Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. at Legislative Plaza.

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