NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A resolution that allows the state of Tennessee to sue the federal government over refugee placement has been approved.
Governor Bill Haslam returned the resolution without his signature, saying he trusts the Attorney General “to determine whether the state has a claim in this case or any other.”
Fears about allowing refugees into Tennessee came about after terrorist attacks last year in Paris and San Bernardino.
The Paris attacks were claimed by ISIS and both Syrian and Egyptian passports were found near the bodies of two perpetrators.
Despite Haslam deciding against a veto of Tennessee’s resolution, he said he has “constitutional concerns” about one branch of the government telling another what to do.
He requested the Attorney General clarify “whether the legislative branch actually has the authority to hire outside counsel to represent the state.”
“I also question whether seeking to dismantle the Refugee Act of 1980 is the proper course for our state,” Haslam added.
Last November, a state representative requested Attorney General Herbert Slatery issue an opinion on the proposed lawsuit regarding refugees.
Slatery said the state cannot refuse to accept people the federal government has admitted to the country as refugees.
He explained that “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.”
The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition responded Friday, saying while they are disappointed Haslam chose not to veto the resolution.
“We agree with his assessment that the resolution itself is constitutionally suspect and that the legislature has overstepped its authority. We also agree that attempting to dismantle the refugee resettlement program will not make our communities any safer.” Click here to read their full statement.
Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, also responded and released the following statement:
We are disappointed that the governor has chosen to allow this discriminatory resolution to become law. We share his concerns that this measure allows an unconstitutional power grab by one branch of government, undermining the separation of powers that is at the very heart of the Tennessee Constitution. This fear-driven attempt to halt refugee resettlement in our state by targeting families who are themselves fleeing violence and terror does not make our state safer. We will monitor implementation of this resolution to ensure that all residents of our state are treated fairly, equally and compassionately.