Category Archives: immigration

Haslam OK with more Syrian refugees in TN

Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday he has confidence in the vetting process for Syrian refugees and and has no objection to more settling in Tennessee, reports the News Sentinel.

His comments come a day after the Obama administration announced it plans to sharply increase the number of refugees accepted by the United States to 110,000 in fiscal 2017.

During an appearance at a luncheon in Anderson County, the governor said he recently met with U.S. State Department officials and Catholic Charities and is convinced “they’re doing a good job” vetting refugees coming to Tennessee.

The Republican governor said there aren’t many times he trusts the federal government, “but I do think they have all the right controls and procedures in place” regarding background checks and vetting for resettlement.

The Obama administration said the additional refugee intake is necessary to help stem a migrant crisis gripping Europe and the Middle East. The new target is a 29 percent increase over the 85,000 refugees accepted this fiscal year and a 57 percent hike over the 70,000 allowed in each year between 2013 and 2015.

More than 10,000 Syrian refugees have been allowed into the country this year, and new figures released Thursday provide a clearer picture of where they’re resettling.

Some 240 have resettled in Tennessee, according to the State Department Refugee Processing Center. Of those, 124 are in Nashville, 112 are in Memphis, three are in Germantown and one is in Spring Hill.

…Resettlement has proven controversial in many states, including Tennessee, where the Legislature voted earlier this year to instruct Attorney General Herbert Slatery to sue the federal government for noncompliance with the Refugee Act of 1980.

Proponents argued the legal proceedings were necessary because the federal government didn’t consult with the state on the resettlements.

Haslam allowed the resolution calling for the lawsuit to take effect without his signature. Slatery, however, declined to file the suit, saying the state was unlikely to succeed.

Former THP sergeant charged with harboring illegal immigrant

A former Tennessee Highway Patrol sergeant charged with harboring an illegal immigrant will be released from custody Tuesday and allowed to remain at home pending his trial, according to The Tennessean.

In early August, a federal judge ruled that Ronald E. Strickland should remain in custody because connections to Honduras could make him a flight risk. But U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp signed an order Friday releasing Strickland, who will be electronically monitored and allowed to stay at home, according to court records and Strickland’s attorney, Ed Yarbrough.

At a court hearing in early August, Yarbrough said Strickland’s work as a public servant — he served in the U.S. Marine Corps before joining THP — and other factors meant he was not a risk and should be released from custody.

Strickland was arrested in late July on a federal charge of harboring a 22-year-old Honduran woman, according to court records. Court documents say he picked up a woman he knew in Texas in mid-July after she traveled from Honduras and through Mexico to meet with him.

State Senate campaign mailer: ISIS welcomed in TN?

Ron McDow, opposing incumbent Steve Dickerson in the state Senate District 20 GOP primary, is attacking Dickerson in a new mail piece for not signing a letter in November that asked Gov. Bill Haslam to ban future Syrian refugees from entering Tennessee.

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Further, from The Tennessean:

The mail piece, paid for by McDow’s campaign, features an image of an ISIS flag hanging from the front door of a suburban home. There’s also a doormat that says “Welcome” in letters that are intended to resemble Arabic.

“Does Steve Dickerson want ISIS living next door to your family?” the ad reads.

“Steve Dickerson says come on in – and puts out the welcome mat for potentially dangerous Syrian refugees. We do not know who they are or what they intend to do here.”

…In an interview with the Tennessean on Monday, the one-term senator said he stands by that decision and rejected allegations made in the ad… He said one of the unfortunate pieces of this mailer is that it “confuses the people who are fleeing ISIS and ISIS itself.”

“The people who we are trying to welcome into the country are people who are literally in fear of their lives,” he said. “So, I regret that that has occurred … This [ad] also misrepresents the refugee community at-large by painting them with this brush.”

Slatery won’t sue feds over refugees in TN despite legislative mandate

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery won’t sue the federal government over its refugee resettlement program.

A General Assembly resolution passed earlier this year had demanded legal action. Gov. Bill Haslam allowed it to take effect without his signature in May.

“I have constitutional concerns about one branch of government telling another what to do,” Haslam wrote to lawmakers at the time.

In a Tuesday letter to the clerks of the state Senate and House of Representatives, Slatery outlined what he sees as lawmakers’ two concerns about refugee resettlement. One is that federal officials are not properly consulting with state and local officials, as required by law. The other is that the federal government is confiscating state resources by coercing Tennessee to accept refugees.

Slatery notes in the letter that the consulting issue already has been dismissed in federal court. He says the coerced spending issue is an untested legal theory that is unlikely to succeed. Continue reading

Diane Black TV ad focused on protection from immigrants, refugees

From a Tennessean description:

In a 30-second spot, which began airing Thursday, Black tells an audience that she has fought hard to ensure the country’s borders are protected.

“The fact is that people come into this country illegally — we’ve got to hold them accountable and responsible,” she says.

A narrator notes that Black is the “sponsor of the law” which seeks to stop refugees coming from Syria and Iraq. Black has pushed legislation aimed at that goal but it has not received Congressional approval or become law.

“This is an issue that both Democrats and Republicans have failed to address,” Black continues in the ad. “This has got to be something that we do as an American people to say no more.”

The ad is the first of a series of spots that will air on broadcast and cable stations throughout her district. According to Black’s campaign, she is set to spend $493,000 on TV ads in advance of the Aug. 4 primary election.

TN cookie-cutter reaction to Supreme immigration ruling

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition has declared dismay over the U.S. Supreme Court deadlock that derails President Obama’s attempt to block deportation of millions of illegal immigrants and some Democrats are equally unhappy. Tennessee’s Republican congressmen are celebrating. So is Republican Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, who had joined the Texas-initiated lawsuit after prodding from GOP legislators.

All, of course, echo national partisan gridlock on the issue, illustrating once again that the old cliche about of all politics being local is no longer true. Here’s a roundup of Tennessee commentary from the quickly-generated press release pile: Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

Blackburn renews push for ban on Syrian refugees

U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn took to the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday to make another push for a temporary ban on resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States, reports WPLN. She cited the recent Orlando murders in her speech.

Blackburn has co-sponsored a measure with fellow Tennessee Rep. Scott DesJarlais that would cut off all funding for resettlement until Congress has approved the Obama administration’s plans.

The shooter in the Pulse nightclub massacre was born and raised in the United States; his parents were immigrants from Afghanistan. Authorities also say they have not found any evidence he was in contact with Islamic State, even though he’s reported to have declared his allegiance with the group.

Still, Blackburn says the case suggests Syrians shouldn’t be allowed into the U.S.

That’s because Omar Mateen was twice investigated by federal authorities based on tips he might become violent, but they found nothing.

“This reveals vetting is nearly impossible,” Blackburn says, “and it is one of the reasons … that we need to halt the migration of Syrian refugees until a proper process is in place.”

Supporters of refugee resettlement counter by arguing the process is already tough enough, frequently taking years to complete.

They also argue that it’s rare for a refugee to get involved in extremism.

More often it has been someone who was reared in the U.S. — like Mateen — that carries out an attack.

Haslam: Trump’s judge comments ‘indefensible’

Gov. Bill Haslam Wednesday joined the chorus of Republican officials to take issue with Donald Trump’s comments, which many have said are racist remarks, about a federal judge, reports The Tennessean.

Last week, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge presiding over a case involving Trump University, had a conflict of interest because of his “Mexican heritage.”

…Haslam called Trump’s initial comments “indefensible.”

“To say that because of someone’s heritage or their ethnicity that they are unable to provide fair judgement is just wrong. It’s just not how the judicial system works in our country and not how it ever can work,” the governor told The Tennessean.

When asked whether Trump’s remarks about Curiel had changed his feelings toward businessman, Haslam said, “I join a lot of others who say, as someone who is a first time candidate you have to realize that words matter and the things you say have a lot broader impact and I join those who are thinking that we hope that now that Trump is the Republican nominee there’s a shift toward a more thoughtful approach to how and what you communicate.”

Haslam has frequently expressed concern about several comments Trump has made, including those about Muslims, defeating the Islamic State with bombings and most recently Trump’s criticism of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

Norris grumbles to governor about refugee resolution rhetoric

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.”