Bill Lee Won’t Say Whether He Wants Afghan Refugees in Tennessee, but Other Powerful GOP Politicians Have Spoken


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.

Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Vernon Jones said on his social media pages this week that Kemp’s suggestion is reckless and threatens national security.

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.





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8 Thoughts to “Bill Lee Won’t Say Whether He Wants Afghan Refugees in Tennessee, but Other Powerful GOP Politicians Have Spoken”

  1. […] did not publicly state late last month whether he wants Tennessee to take in Afghan refugees. Two of the state’s other top Republicans, […]

  2. 99 Ragtop

    Yes, I would welcome the Afghan Refugees escaping the Taliban and others. From what I have seen and heard, these people deserve our help. They are fleeing a desperate situation. Surely we can find a place for them. We area nation of immigrants. I wonder how many people’s parents and grandparents were immigrants. Many of them risked their lives to help the United States as translators and interpreters. Even if you don’t agree, could you at least think about it.Thank you.

  3. CO

    NO MORE refugees. A long as veterans, homeless, or unemployed need State assistance it would be criminal to use taxpayer dollars to help non-citizens.

  4. Mike

    No tennessee does not need any more refugees migrants or immigrants. Let the federal government straighten out the border and immigration mess then talk about taking people into this.

  5. TT

    Those Afghan people are the ones who help our troops over there. They do not deserve to be slaughtered the way trump set the Kurds up for slaughter

  6. 83ragtop50

    Do-nothing Lee put his foot in it when he unilaterally agreed to accepting refugees when Trump asked states for their permission to do so. So I have no confidence that Lee will step up for Tennesseans. He appears to put refugees in front of we citizens.

  7. Nancy

    Why is the State Gop party leadership silent on this matter? Where is RINO senators Hagerty and if my lips are moving I am lying Marsha Blackburn? I guess Blackburn and Hagerty have nit got their marching orders From RINO /warmonger Mitch McConnell! Hagerty and Blackburn why don’t you do something fir Tennesseans and call out the liberals who want to continue to bring in immigrants to our state? The Tennessee Republican Party leaders is a total failure! Time for new leadership and real conservative Senators! Why aren’t you calling the silence of the liberal Jim Cooper?

  8. JB Taylor

    Nope, tennessee does not need any more migrants or Immigrants.