Federal Judge Dismisses Tennessee Refugee Resettlement Lawsuit, Cites State’s ‘Lack of Standing’

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On Monday U.S. District Judge Stanley Thomas Anderson dismissed a lawsuit filed by the state of Tennessee in August alleging the federal government unconstitutionally coerced it into subsidizing the federal refugee resettlement program, citing a lack of standing.

In its filing, one of the arguments advanced by the state said that the federal government violated its sovereignty–guaranteed by the 10th Amendment–by requiring Tennessee to provide Medicaid benefits to refugees resettled directly into the state by the federal government without the state’s approval, or else put into jeopardy almost $7 billion of medicaid funds if it refused.

Reuters reports:

But in a 43-page decision, Chief Judge S. Thomas Anderson of the federal court in Jackson, Tennessee said the state lacked legal standing to sue.

The judge called the prospect of a Medicaid funding loss “speculative,” and said Tennessee had taken no steps to deny Medicaid or other benefits to refugees.

He also said Tennessee could not have been surprised that a growing number of refugees might boost state health care costs, and that it has “always been foreseeable” that periodic international humanitarian crises might cause an influx.

“None of the events described by plaintiffs represents a departure from the understanding pursuant to which Tennessee has accepted Federal Medicaid funds for over forty years—that it must cover lawfully present aliens, including refugees, under its Medicaid program,” Anderson wrote.

According to court papers, Catholic Charities of Tennessee has administered the resettlement program in that state since Tennessee in 2008 announced its withdrawal, but legislators objected to taxpayers having to fund its costs.

The lawsuit had been brought by Tennessee’s Republican-led general assembly and two legislators. Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, is not among the plaintiffs.

The case is Tennessee et al v. U.S. Department of State et al, U.S. District Court, Western District of Tennessee, No. 17-01040.

The state of Tennessee is represented in the case by the Thomas More Law Center, a non-profit public interest law firm

It is unclear whether the state of Tennessee will appeal Monday’s decision.


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