State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris has told Gov. Bill Haslam that he’s “troubled” and “uncomfortable with your mischaracterization” of legislation ordering legal action against the federal government over its refugee resettlement program in Tennessee.
From the Richard Locker report:
In a letter to Haslam on Monday, Norris, R-Collierville, took strong exception to the governor’s remarks on Friday about Senate Joint Resolution 467. Haslam declined to sign it, which has no practical effect other than signifying the governor’s position.
…In his letter, the senator wrote that he was troubled by the governor’s statement “and I am uncomfortable with your mischaracterization of this important resolution. First, as we have discussed, the resolution should not have been necessary in the first place. The attorney general should have acted on his own long before now.”
Despite legislative clamor during last year’s Syrian refugee crisis, Slatery did not try to block resettlement of refugees in the state. He issued an advisory opinion Nov. 30 that Tennessee cannot refuse to accept refugees the federal government has processed and admitted to the United States because “such a refusal would impinge on and conflict with the federal government’s authority to regulate the admission of aliens to the U.S. and thus would violate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
Norris also wrote that the resolution “is not about ‘dismantling the Refugee Act’ as you said. It is about enforcing it.” He said Haslam’s safety and homeland security commissioner, Bill Gibbons, testified before a legislative committee in December that the federal government is not providing adequate information to the state regarding the refugees it’s sending to Tennessee.
“He recently confirmed that is still the case,” Norris wrote. “Alabama and Georgia have taken action. Why can’t Tennessee?”
Norris said one of the goals of the governor’s Public Safety Action Plan, released in January and cited in Haslam’s message on Friday, is to enhance the state’s ability to analyze information for links to terrorist activity, but that federal officials are not providing the information needed for such analysis even though the state has rights to such information under the Refugee Act.
“It is ironic that your administration appears reluctant to enforce those rights,” Norris wrote. “We also need to know who is resettled, where they are resettled, whether they have been property screened for contagious diseases like tuberculosis and measles, and whether they have been properly vaccinated.”
The governor’s press secretary, Jennifer Donnals, said later on Tuesday, “I’m sure the governor and Leader Norris will have a chance to talk about this at some point but the governor stands by his statement issued Friday.”