Biden’s Controversial Executive Order Increasing Refugee Resettlement Could Signal New Battle Between Gov. Bill Lee and County Governments/State Legislators


President Joe Biden’s plan to resettle 125,000 foreign refugees this year, a 960 percent increase from former president Donald J. Trump’s 12,000 per year, could intensify an ongoing battle between first-term Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, and elected Republican officials in the legislature and across the state.

“On Thursday, Biden signed an order that will set the maximum number of refugees resettled in the U.S. at 125,000 for Fiscal Year 2021,” Breitbart reported. “The refugee cap is simply a numerical limit and not a goal for federal officials to reach.”

Refugee resettlement has been a hotbed issue in Tennessee, even during Trump’s term, when resettlements were severely decreased nationwide.

When Trump announced an executive order giving counties and locales autonomy to make decisions on refugee resettlement in 2019, Lee defied him, sending a letter of consent to then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stating his desire to resettle refugees in Tennessee.

“The United States and Tennessee have always been, since the very founding of our nation, a shining beacon of freedom and opportunity for the persecuted and oppressed, particularly those suffering religious persecution,” Lee said at the time. “My administration has worked extensively to determine the best outcome for Tennessee, and I will consent to working with President Trump and his administration to responsibly resettle refugees.”

But he faced significant backlash from county officials, many of whom sided with Trump on the issue.

As reported by The Tennessee Starat least 10 counties spoke out against Lee. Some said they would not accept more refugees. Others simply stated their disagreement with the governor.

“I think when you’re going to do something like this you need to consult with your constituents, and I think you need, just as importantly, to consult with the legislative body in Nashville,” Bedford County Commissioner Brent Smith told The Star at the time. “He could have gotten a pretty good idea of what his constituents were thinking on this whole issue and could have saved a lot of disruption within our (Republican) party if he would have done that.”

Fayette County Commissioner Tim Goodroe told The Star last year that Lee “mismanaged” the issue.

“There are many aspects that must be considered and many entities that should be brought into the decision-making process when it comes to managing government and lending resources,” Goodroe said.

“Governor Lee did not do this when he gave consent and wrote his letter to Secretary Pompeo. Had he done this, I would hope that his letter would have read differently. I believe that Gov. Lee has a good Christian heart. I also believe he mismanaged this issue,” he continued.

Tennessee’s Republican lawmakers jumped into the battle later in 2020.

Rep. Ron Gant (R-TN-94), sponsored HB 1929 in June, attempting to strip the governor of unilateral power to resettle refugees.

“The governor shall not make any decision or obligate the state of Tennessee in any way with regard to resettlement of refugees, unless authorized by joint resolution of the general assembly,” the text of that bill said. “A joint resolution by the general assembly with regard to refugee resettlement shall not authorize the governor to make such decision for more than one (1) year from the date the resolution is adopted.”

The last action on that bill was taken on June 11.

The Tennessee Star reached out to Gant for an update. He did not immediately return a comment request.

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Pete D’Abrosca is a contributor at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]





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8 Thoughts to “Biden’s Controversial Executive Order Increasing Refugee Resettlement Could Signal New Battle Between Gov. Bill Lee and County Governments/State Legislators”

  1. 83ragtop50

    The proverbial chickens are coming home to roost for Lee who has been determined from the start to run Tennessee like a king.

    The legislature has been totally absent regarding reining him in. He is going to be one and done. Thankfully. I hope he cannot do too much damage before the next election. Maybe Biden can move him to Washington seeing how much they are alike.

  2. mike

    Our legislators should step and limit the powers they have given to the governor. Spending TN tax dollars should be a job of the legislators. TN should expect the governor to protect states rights from mandates from the Federal govt.

  3. Julie

    If you are really a Democrat and the only pathway into politics in this state is as a Republican you would want them coming to TN to turn it blue.

  4. jamesb

    dear guv. this may be the final nail in your political coffin. what does this do to our schools and medical systems. it puts my tennessee born and raised butt at the end of the line.

    come on legislature do your job.

  5. Edward Smith

    Bad idea! Too many US citizens have lost their jobs due to COVID 19 in addition to Biden cancelling the construction on the pipeline causing thousands to lose their jobs. Biden needs to make decisions that will create jobs for US citizens who have lost their jobs before allowing more and more illegal immigrants to come into this country. Lee needs to fight for Tennesseans or remove himself from office and let someone take over who cares about citizens who need a job. I am so fed up with Politicians who make decisions based upon what best for them rather than their constituents. Promises made -promises not kept. So typical. When will we ever learn that Politicians cannot be trusted to do what they promised during elections. Trump delivered on most all of his promises!

    1. Tim Price

      I agree 100 percent!

  6. Steve Allen

    When is the governor’s seat up for reelection? There’s a big difference between immigrants who will contribute to society, those who bring nothing to the table except for the desire to suck off of the government tit, and those who are outright criminals. The Donks policy of catch and release will be a threat to the safety of Tennesseans.

    1. Tim Price

      I 100 percent agree Steve.