The state of Tennessee is challenging the constitutionality of the federal government’s refugee resettlement program.
“We believe that it is a violation of the 10th Amendment, which declares that the states are sovereign and that the federal government can not with money, not with the staff, for the conduct of a federal program,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center.
The social-conservative non-profit group filed the lawsuit Monday on the state of the account. Although the timing coincides with President Donald Trump’s warring efforts to impose a temporary travel ban for visitors and refugees from six predominantly Muslim countries, Thompson said the effort behind this lawsuit began long before Trump’s election.
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Tennessee was the first state to challenge the program.
Last year, Tennessee legislators adopted a resolution, in which the state to sue the federal government about the refugee program. But Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, both Republicans, took no action on it.
Catholic Charities is the administration of the federal refugee resettlement program in Tennessee since 2008, when the state officially withdrew from the program. But the legislator backing the lawsuit say state taxpayers continue to pay costs related to the refugees who need it, public assistance, health care and education.
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“If they go to public school and they speak no English and they need to learn English lessons, which are paid for in part by the State of Tennessee,” said state Sen. John Stevens, a Republican.
The lawsuit has the criticism from immigrants rights advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union.
“We believe that the actions of these politicians do not represent the majority of Tennesseans who believe in helping people in need — especially those fleeing violence and terror to protect their families,” Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, said in a statement published by the organization.
The lawsuit supporters insist their intention is not to harm the refugees, but the federal government to take responsibility for the unfunded mandates it imposes on states.
“If it is a priority of the federal government to more persons in the different states, it is only fair that they should pick up the tab,” Stevens said.
Fox News’ Chip Bell contributed to this report.
Jonathan Serrie joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in April 1999 and currently serves as a correspondent based in the Atlanta bureau.