Members of Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s staff will not say why state officials have not complied with releasing health data about refugees, as the law requires.
Members of Lee’s staff did not return repeated requests for comment on the matter this week.
As Breitbart reported in 2016, states such as California, Texas, Indiana, Utah, Arizona, Florida, and Minnesota readily make this information available in reports that are published annually.
Other states, such as Louisiana, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Colorado do not publish annual reports on refugee health, but they do make this information publicly available, as Breitbart went on to say.
But Tennessee did not publish annual reports on refugee health and only provided partial information on latent tuberculosis rates. Tennessee also refused to provide active TB infection data, Breitbart reported.
“Sharing such important public health data is consistent with more than a century of federal and state laws that promote transparent and open government when it comes to reporting on the incidence of diseases that can impact public health,” according to Breitbart.
“It is also consistent with the requirements of the Refugee Act of 1980, which established the federal refugee resettlement program, and existing public health laws in most states.
As Breitbart reported, Michigan now joins a number of other states, including New York, Massachusetts, and Kentucky, which are not complying with these standards.
Minnesota officials released a refuge health report last year that stated the following:
• Between 2008 to 2018 roughly 97 to 99 percent of primary refugees were screened for tuberculosis, Hepatitis B, sexually transmitted infections, intestinal parasites, and lead.
• Certain refugees were not screened because they missed appointments, refused screenings, or state officials could not locate them.
• There were 419 cases of refugees with infection in 2018.
• These refugees arrive from Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.
As The Tennessee Star reported this week, the number of resettled refugees who have arrived in Tennessee has increased 46 percent in 2019 during the 11 months Lee has served as governor of the state.
Last week, Lee announced his unpopular and controversial decision to allow more refugees to resettle in the state in 2020, even though U.S. Republican President Donald Trump’s executive order in September gave state governments the authority to say no to more refugees.
The Tennessee General Assembly has filed a lawsuit in the federal courts arguing on 10th Amendment grounds that the federal government does not have the right to resettle refugees in the state, forcing the state’s taxpayers to pay for the educational and social welfare benefits given those refugees.
That lawsuit is currently pending in the federal courts. Lee’s decision has the effect of undermining the Tennessee General Assembly’s case. During his time in office, Lee has not filed an amicus brief supporting the Tennessee General Assembly’s case.
Under Lee, refugees have resettled in the state from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma (now called Myanmar), Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Iran and Iraq.
From the date of his inauguration on January 19, 2019 to Saturday, December 21, 2019 a total of 595 refugees have resettled in Tennessee by the Tennessee Office of Refugees, an arm of the Catholic Charities Voluntary Agency (VOLAG) that is paid by the federal government for each resettled refugee, according to the Department of State’s wrapnets.org interactive reporting website.
As The Star reported this week, the number of reported tuberculosis cases in Tennessee increased 10 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC report measured TB case counts in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2017 and 2018.
Specifically, in 2017 Tennessee had 127 cases of TB. In 2018 that number climbed to 140 cases, a 10.2 increase over the previous year.
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