Texas refugee lawsuit dismissed; Legislators pushing for TN lawsuit

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Texas against resettlement of Syrian refugees within the state’s borders as some Tennessee lawmakers contend health concerns show the need for similar legal action as mandated by the Legislature in April.

“This Texas decision is a strong rebuke of efforts to block refugee resettlement,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee in an email.

“It sends the clear message to other states that such attempts are not only un-American, they are contrary to the law and will fail in court. We continue to urge the state of Tennessee not to engage in litigation that contradicts our values and violates the law of the land,” she said.

State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, on the other hand, said http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/06/16/tennessee-state-senate-leader-ag-must-act-without-delay-protect-public-health-risk-refugees/ declaring that 27 percent of refugees sent to Tennessee between 2011 and 2015 tested positive for latent tuberculosis infection shows a new justification for Tennessee filing a lawsuit over refugee resettlement in Tennessee.

“Public health is at risk, and doing nothing is not an option,” Norris told the online news magazine, which has an ardently conservative perspective and often features articles critical of U.S. immigration policies. “These statistics underscore the urgency… The status quo is a no-go with me.”

The Breitbart article also quotes U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, and other state GOP politicians as concerned about refugees testing positive for past exposure to tuberculosis. The article says the state Department of Health and the Tennessee Office of Resettlement — a Tennessee Catholic Charities affiliate that oversees refugee matters at the state level under contract — could not provide information on whether any active cases of TB were found among refugees brought to the state.

With Norris as a sponsor, the Legislature earlier this year approved a resolution directing Attorney General Herbert Slatery to file a lawsuit against the federal government over refugee resettlement in Tennessee. It includes a provision declaring that if Slatery refuses to do so, a law firm can file the lawsuit on the state’s behalf so long as it does not require spending of taxpayer dollars.

Gov. Bill Haslam voiced misgivings about the resolution, but declined to veto the measure and let it take effect without his signature. Slatery, who was Haslam’s legal counsel before becoming attorney general, is still pondering whether to bring the lawsuit or leave the litigation to the Thomas More Law Center, which advocates for states’ rights.

U.S. District Court Judge David Godbey last week dismissed a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to block resettlement of Syrian refugees in Texas, declaring the state had presented “no plausible claim” to counter the federal government’s rights to decide immigration and refugee resettlement issues. Paxton is considering an appeal of the ruling, widely denounced by Texas Republican officials including Gov. Greg Abbott, according to the Dallas Morning News.

“The Court finds no indication that Congress affirmatively contemplated private enforcement by states when it passed the Refugee Act,” said Godbey in his ruling.