Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has not publicly stated whether he wants the state to take in Afghan refugees, but two of the state’s other top Republicans on Friday made their opinions known.
Members of Lee’s staff did not return two requests for comment Friday.
Tennessee Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) and Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) emailed separate statements to The Tennessee Star.
Sexton said he doubted whether taking in Afghan refugees is wise.
“I do not have confidence in the Biden Administration’s vetting process concerning the refugee issue, much less his ability to work with law enforcement and immigration officials,” Sexton said.
“His administration has been a failure on both immigration and foreign policy. Therefore, I do not think it is a good idea for Tennessee to accept Afghan refugees.”
McNally, meanwhile, said it’s important that the government “halt illegal immigration, protect our borders and limit those entering our nation.”
“Afghanistan is a unique situation. For nearly 20 years, we have had a significant military presence there and solicited help from many inside the country to fight against the Taliban,” McNally said.
“Those that helped us are now at risk. Our nation should do everything it can to assist legitimate and authentic political refugees from Afghanistan in finding new places to call home.”
The left-leaning Nashville Scene this week asked Lee to take in Afghan refugees.
Last month, Metro Nashville officials announced that refugees and immigrants will have a share in Metro Nashville’s $4.9 million grant for COVID-19 health disparities in certain racial, ethnic, and rural demographics.
In neighboring Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp reportedly has invited Afghan refugees to resettle there, and his announcement has not carried over well with Peach State conservatives.
Kemp, according to the Atlanta-based 11 Alive, said “it is vitally important to keep those who partnered with American armed forces over the last 20 years safe from harm.”
Kemp also reportedly said that the government should vet Afghan refugees before and if they arrive in the United States. The station also pointed out that the federal government — and not the states — oversees immigration policy.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photos “Cameron Sexton” by Speaker Cameron Sexton, “Randy McNally” by Adam Kleinheider (CC BY-SA 4.0), and “Refugees” by U.S. Department of Defense.