The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) and Bursch Law PLLC filed a petition for rehearing by the entire Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals bench of a two-judge panel opinion dismissing Tennessee’s challenge to the constitutionality of the federal refugee resettlement program for lack of standing.
The petition for rehearing is here.
The two-judge panel rejected the state’s challenge in July, as The Tennessee Star previously reported.
The basis for the rehearing petition, which was filed Friday, Sept. 6, is that the two-judge opinion is “painfully at odds” with Supreme Court precedent.
A federal judge in March 2018 dismissed Tennessee’s lawsuit against the federal government’s resettlement of refugees in the state on 10th amendment grounds. The Tennessee General Assembly in May 2018 authorized TMLC to file an appeal on its behalf, The Star reported. The law center did not charge for the service.
TMLC says it filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs in March 2017, alleging that the Refugee Act of 1980, imposed on it by the federal government, amounts to an unconstitutional power grab – commandeering millions in state taxpayer dollars for a purely federal program.
A federal district court granted the federal government’s motion to dismiss.
The petition for rehearing asks the full bench: Does the Tennessee General Assembly have standing to challenge a regulatory regimen allowing the federal government to siphon dollars from the state treasury “at times and in amounts of the federal government’s choosing,” diluting the legislature’s exclusive power of appropriation?
The controversy dates to 2008 when the state pulled out of the federal refugee program in accordance with its agreement with the federal government. The flow of refugees continued, as the federal government simply transferred management of the program to a private agency, Catholic Charities of Tennessee, an arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of TMLC, said, “This case has enormous jurisprudential consequences, not only on the issue of the federal refugee resettlement program, but on the ability of Congress to force states to pay for future bizarre, fantastical, unwanted programs as proposed by current Democrat candidates without any recourse to the courts.”
The federal government is forcing Tennessee to continue funding the program by threatening to pull $7 billion in federal Medicaid funding, 20 percent of the state’s total budget.
The rehearing petition said, “As the federal bureaucracy continues to grow, federal officials will increasingly look to state budgets as the solution to federal funding deficits. When federal bureaucrats do so in violation of the Constitution, e.g. by coercing states to continue funding under pain of losing 20% of the state budget, state legislators must have the ability to bring suit.”
Besides Medicaid funding, the federal government commandeers state funds for other welfare programs and for public education of the refugees.
Since January 2002 the federal government has placed more than 19,000 refugees into Tennessee cities.
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