The Tennessee General Assembly may be preparing to enable illegal immigrants to acquire commercial and professional licenses in the state.
The bill which could accomplish this, HB2309, narrowly passed in the Tennessee House of Representatives on Monday in a 56 to 35 vote, with 35 Republicans joining 21 Democrats and 3 Republicans present and not voting, led by bill sponsor State Representative Bill Freeman (D-Nashville).
The state Senate companion bill, SB2464, sponsored by State Senator Shane Reeves (R-Murfreesboro) (pictured above) will be introduced for a vote by the full state Senate on Thursday.
In the House discussion Monday evening bill prior to the bill’s passage, sponsor Rep. Freeman responded to a question posed by State Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville).
“Are those who are applying, are they legal under DACA?,” Zachary asked
DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is a policy announced by the Secretary of Homeland Security in 2012 that certain people who came to the U.S. as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a two-year period, subject to renewal, and are also eligible for work authorization.
Freeman responded that “some could definitely be legal under DACA.”
Freeman’s response to Zachary, however, is not supported either by President Obama’s own admission in 2010, or subsequent court decisions addressing the DACA program.
Obama, responding to demands for a comprehensive immigration plan, told Latino voters, “I am not king. I can’t do these things just by myself.” But, that is exactly what he did in 2012 with the DACA program.
In July 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas held that the DACA policy is illegal, according to USCIS, and vacated the June 2012 DACA memorandum by DHS. The Court temporarily stayed its order regarding individuals who obtained DACA before the decision.
Based on Freeman’s response, Zachary said he could not support the bill.
“Because under Article I, Section 8, the Constitution is clear about the enumerated power of naturalization and immigration. That power lies with Congress. It does not lie with the executive branch. DACA was instituted by President Obama and therefore makes it unconstitutional and which would then make them here illegally,” Zachary explained.
Current state law under Tennessee Code Annotated (T.C.A.) 4-58-103 regarding verification of citizenship of applicants for benefits states in subsection (a):
Except where prohibited by federal law, every state governmental entity and local health department shall verify that each applicant eighteen (18) years of age or older, who applies for a federal, state or local public benefit from the entity or local health department, is a United States citizen or lawfully present in the United States in the manner provided in this chapter.
A public benefit as defined by the federal government under 8 U.S.C. 1611 and referenced in T.C.A. 4-58-102, includes, among other things, a professional or commercial license.
The amendment that makes the bill that passed the House on Monday, would add a new subdivision that states:
Notwithstanding another provision of this section, a public benefit does not include a professional or commercial license for purposes of this section. To be eligible for a professional or commercial license, an applicant must show that the applicant is either a United States citizen or authorized under federal law to work in the United States as verified by the SAVE program, as defined in T.C.A. 4-58-102.
The SAVE program, as defined in T.C.A. 4-58-102 means the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program, created pursuant to the federal Immigrant and Reform Act of 1986 and operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
So, the bill that the State House passed would extend a state benefit in the way of a professional license or a commercial license that is not available from the federal government to non-citizens.
Meanwhile, bills introduced by State Representative Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) over his two terms to address several illegal-immigration issues such as relocating illegal aliens to towns connected to prominent Democrat leaders, allowing schools to deny service to illegal aliens, employer use of E-Verify, and taxing out-of-country wire transfers, have all gone nowhere in the state House.
House Republicans voting for HB2309 were: Rebecca Alexander (R-Jonesborough), Charlie Baum (R-Murfreesboro), Clark Boyd (R-Lebanon), Rush Bricken (R-Tullahoma), Kent Calfee (R-Kingston), Michele Carringer (R-Knoxville), Glen Casada (R-Franklin), John Crawford (R-Bristol/Kingsport), Michael Curcio (R-Dickson), Tandy Darby (R-Greenfield), Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby), Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville), John Gillespie (R-Memphis), Curtis Halford (R-Dyer), Patsy Hazelwood (R-Signal Mountain), Esther Helton (R-East Ridge), Gary Hicks (R-Rogersville), Tim Hicks (R-Gray), John Holsclaw (R-Elizabethtown), Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport), Chris Hurt (R-Halls), Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville), Sabi Kumar (R-Springfield), Eddie Mannis (R-Knoxville), Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville), Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville), Iris Rudder (R-Winchester), Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna), Ron Travis (R-Dayton), Greg Vital (R-Harrison), Todd Warner (R-Chapel Hill), Mark White (R-Memphis), Sam Whitson (R-Franklin), Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) and Dave Wright (R-Corryton).
Three Republican Representatives present and not voting were David Byrd (R-Waynesboro), Ron Gant (R-Rossville) and Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro).
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Star News Network, where she covers stories for The Tennessee Star and The Georgia Star News.
Photo “Shane Reeves” by Shane Reeves.