Tennessee filed a lawsuit Monday suing the federal government over costs of the federal refugee resettlement program, becoming the first state in the nation to take such action.
The lawsuit was filed by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of the State of Tennessee, the Tennessee General Assembly and State Sen. John Stevens (R-Huntingdon) and State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster).
The suit challenges the constitutionality of the federal refugee resettlement program as it is currently operating in Tennessee, based on the 10th Amendment, which says that powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states. The Thomas More Law Center is a national nonprofit public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that defends and promotes America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and a strong national defense. The center filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.
“President Trump through executive action has reversed the overreaches of the Obama administration in numerous ways. I trust President Trump in this regard. However, he needs our help,” said Sen. Stevens in a news release issued by the Thomas More Law Center.
Tennessee officially withdrew from the refugee resettlement program in 2007, but the federal government then appointed Catholic Charities to administer the program. The nonprofit agency receives revenue based on the number of refugees it brings into Tennessee. Critics of the arrangement maintain that the state continues to pour millions into refugee resettlement via costs for healthcare, long-term welfare dependency and ESL (English as Second Language) instruction in public schools, costs that aren’t fully compensated for by taxes paid by refugees.
State revenues that could otherwise be used for state programs are being appropriated by the federal government to support the federal refugee resettlement program, according to the Thomas More Center. “This arrangement displaces Tennessee’s constitutionally mandated funding prerogatives and appropriations process,” the news release said.
“The purpose of the lawsuit is not to inflict harm on refugees, but to preserve the balanced constitutional relationship between the federal government and the states,” the news release said.
The Tennessee General Assembly last year passed a resolution with overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate that authorized the filing of the lawsuit on Monday.