NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee election officials plan to review a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says states can’t demand proof of citizenship from people registering to vote in federal elections unless they get federal or court approval to do so.
The justices’ 7-2 ruling on Monday complicates efforts in Arizona and other states to bar voting by people who are in the country illegally.
Tennessee passed a law about two years ago that allows state election officials to purge noncitizen residents from election rolls.
Anyone listed as a noncitizen and registered to vote has 30 days to present proof of citizenship or be purged from the rolls.
Secretary of State spokesman Blake Fontenay told The Associated Press on Monday that election officials hadn’t seen the high court ruling, but planned to review it to see if it affects Tennessee.
Tennessee is plunging ahead with a plan to drug-test some welfare applicants even though a Florida judge stopped a similar program over constitutional issues and Arizona authorities caught only one welfare-receiving drug abuser in three years, according to The Tennessean. Reports from the Tennessee agency charged with implementing the drug-testing law show the state may try to catch drug-using applicants with a diagnostic quiz that includes questions such as “Have you abused more than one drug at a time?” and “Do you ever feel bad about your drug abuse?” If they failed the questionnaire, they would face urine screenings.
Tennessee passed its law last year and gave the Department of Human Services until July 1, 2014, to implement it. It’s taking cues from Arizona’s program, which went into effect in 2009.
“I don’t rule out the possibility that we’ve captured two idiots,” said Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh, a former police detective who sponsored the legislation there. “If I was going to do it again, I would attempt to do a cross-check of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families rolls and records of drug arrests, but based on our budget, I don’t want to create that expense.
“I wish the Tennessee legislature all the luck. If they are able to crack through the judicial barriers, we will benefit from their experience.”
Tennessee’s sponsor for the drug law, Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, said he’s not discouraged by what’s happening in other states, and he would consider the law successful if it drove down the number of applicants simply because they knew they would be tested.
Groups who support drug-testing laws nationwide argue that the Fourth Amendment prohibition on searches without reasonable cause shouldn’t apply in the case of welfare applicants. Rachel Sheffield, a policy analyst for The Heritage Foundation, a right-leaning think tank in Washington, said it’s fair to require certain behavior from people who receive taxpayer assistance.
…About 51,000 Tennessee families receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a cash payment that averages about $164 a month, according to the most recent Department of Human Services report. Adults are required to keep their children in school and participate in a work-training program. They can’t receive benefits for more than 60 months in their lifetimes, although the clock on benefits can stop and start depending on their circumstances.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court will struggle this week with the validity of an Arizona law that tries to keep illegal immigrants from voting by demanding all state residents show documents proving their U.S. citizenship before registering to vote in national elections.
The high court will hear arguments Monday over the legality of Arizona’s voter-approved requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal “Motor Voter” voter registration law that doesn’t require such documentation.
This case focuses on voter registration in Arizona, which has tangled frequently with the federal government over immigration issues involving the Mexican border. But it has broader implications because four other states — Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee — have similar requirements, and 12 other states are contemplating similar legislation, officials say.
The Obama administration is supporting challengers to the law.
The Supreme Court’s ruling Monday on Arizona’s controversial immigration-enforcement law is likely to have little, if any, immediate impact on Tennessee because the Volunteer State’s law is much more limited, observes the Commercial Appeal. The National Conference of State Legislatures said the ruling — which upheld the part of the Arizona law requiring police to try to determine immigration status during a lawful stop, but struck down three other major provisions — would have immediate impact on five states that enacted similar legislation: Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah. Although Tennessee lawmakers debated a similar comprehensive bill, it never won final approval.
Instead, the state legislature in 2010 enacted a more modest law that requires jailers to attempt to verify the citizenship status of each person booked into their lockup, after their arrest, and report violations to the federal authorities. But Tennessee has no “show me your papers” provision that allows law enforcement officers to stop and demand documentation of anyone.
…Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said Monday’s ruling “should be viewed as a warning to policymakers in Tennessee considering whether to embroil the state in this divisive issue” because the court struck down three key parts of the Arizona law and indicated the most controversial provision regarding police stops may be subject to further legal challenges.
But Meagan Macaraeg, director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, said the high court’s decision to uphold the stop and arrest provision “turns back the clock on all our hard-won civil rights” and may serve as a “guide to Arizona on how to continue racially profiling residents.”
She said the organization will continue to monitor the Tennessee legislature — which is out of session until January — for new bills that would enact a similar provision in Tennessee.
Further from the Chattanooga Times-Free Press: “The most important provision, at least for the state of Tennessee, was upheld,” said Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lacassas, who sponsored similar legislation in Tennessee’s 107th General Assembly but failed to get it passed.
Carr, who has pushed any number of bills targeting illegal immigrants, said he needs to read the court’s full decision before deciding whether to proceed with his bill next year. But he said he “very likely” would push ahead after discussing the issue with Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and GOP legislative leaders.
Carr pointed out that lawmakers this year passed another of his bills, which requires people in Tennessee seeking many types of public assistance to show documents that they are lawfully in the U.S. or are a U.S. citizen.
Another Carr-sponsored bill passed last year requires employers to utilize the federal E-Verify database to determine would-be hires’ legal status. Employers, however, can choose instead to obtain a copy of prospective employees’ driver’s licenses.
…Haslam’s communications chief, Alexia Poe, said officials are “reviewing the Supreme Court’s full opinion but don’t anticipate the ruling will impact the immigration bills that the governor has signed into law during the past two legislative sessions in Tennessee.”
She added that it “would be premature at this point to speculate on what impact the ruling might have on potential future legislation in Tennessee.”
And Carr tells TNReport that he’ll likely use the ruling to refuel his drive toward making Tennessee an inhospitable place to foreigners who lack explicit U.S. government approval to be in this country
Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly are bragging on their accomplishments in immigration reform — especially about a unique approach to the E-Verify hiring system — but what could be ripe for debate is the list of immigration bills they’re ready to push next year.
More from Mike Morrow’s TNReport: Lawmakers say they intend to pursue legislation beginning in January on immigration enforcement at the state level (SB0780), denying state taxpayer benefits to illegal aliens (HB1379), an English-only driver’s license process (SB0010) and, in what may be a highly volatile issue, an effort (HB0751) to seek clarification on whether a child born here to illegal aliens should be considered a citizen, as has generally been the practice.
Legislators are trumpeting their accomplishments in this year’s session not only on the successful E-Verify plan and the material support bill to fight “homegrown terrorism” but a lesser-known bill meant to address issues related to legal refugees who come into the state.
The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition has issued a detailed report on the Legislature’s efforts on immigration this year, including continued warnings about each of the bills that didn’t pass. (Note: Link HERE.) The group claims success in holding the line on “Arizona copycat legislation,” but it remains aware of states’ individual efforts at enacting immigration reforms.
…Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, one of the most adamant proponents of immigration legislation in the state, has said he will try to get an enforcement bill passed next year.
“We waited to see what Georgia was doing, what Alabama was doing, and we’re going to tweak our bill,” Ketron said. “We’re going to come back with a vengeance, and thank goodness the Supreme Court ruled the way they did just a few weeks ago on that issue.
The high court dealt strictly with an employment issue, upholding Arizona’s law penalizing businesses that hire illegal immigrants, lending strength to states that want to use the federal E-Verify identity system. There is debate, however, as to how far the court might go in other areas of enforcement, such as checking papers. The court ruling, nevertheless, was a sign that states may be allowed to act on immigration enforcement where the federal government has not acted.
“We’re going to bring that bill hot and heavy,” Ketron said. “It’s going to be the best bill passed so far.”
(Note: Similar laws have been proposed, but never adopted, in the Tennessee legislature.)
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court imposed new limits Monday on states trying to restrain the influence of money in politics, striking down a law that tied the amount of public funds a candidate receives to how much privately funded rivals spend.
The 5-4 ruling was the latest in a series of decisions by the court’s conservative majority upending campaign finance laws. But the court did not attack the validity of using public funds for campaign financing, giving a glimmer of hope to advocates of restrictions on spending in political campaigns.
Instead, Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion dwelled on the so-called trigger mechanism in an Arizona law that provided differing levels of money to publicly funded candidates based on the spending by privately funded rivals and independent groups.
The law was passed after a public corruption scandal and was intended to reward candidates who forgo raising their own campaign cash, even in the face of heavy spending by opponents with private money. Those who challenged the Arizona law said it caused them to rein in spending to prevent their political opponents from getting a fresh infusion of state money.
The court said the trigger violates the First Amendment, but left in place the rest of Arizona’s public financing system.
A proposed Tennessee version of Arizona’s controversial law on illegal immigration was shelved for the year on Tuesday while another bill attempting to curb employment of illegal immigrants has received a boost from Gov. Bill Haslam.
The sponsors of the “Lawful Immigration Enforcement Act,” HB1380, Tuesday had any further action on the measure postponed until 2012.
Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, and Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro said the estimated $3 million cost of implementing the bill was a major factor in the decision to delay. The sponsors also said they expect to renew their effort next year, likely after some modifications.
“It’s an opportunity to keep it alive,” said Ketron.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Opponents of a proposal that would allow law enforcement agents in Tennessee to question suspects about their immigration status are concerned it will hurt the state’s image.
The measure was one of three immigration bills sponsored by Republican Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas that passed the House State and Local Government Committee on a voice vote Tuesday.
The other bills would require the state’s employers to prove their employees are legally authorized to work in the U.S., and require agencies to verify that applicants for public benefits are legally eligible for them.
Critics compare the law enforcement bill to the one in Arizona that passed last year and is currently the subject of a federal lawsuit.
Carr said the proposal is different from the Arizona legislation in that local law enforcement officials wouldn’t be able to make an arrest if an individual couldn’t provide legal documents.
Under his bill, if there was reasonable suspicion, authorities would call an immigration enforcement hot line to find out if the person was legally in the country.
However, opponents of the proposal say it could hurt tourism in the state and cause racial profiling.
“I’m afraid … we’re putting it out there that we’re following Arizona’s lead,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville. “I’m afraid we’re going to have some overzealous officers. I do not want to give tools to someone who would do that.”
Democratic Rep. Antonio Parkinson of Memphis agreed.
“I think this bill is going to create an atmosphere in Tennessee that we don’t want,” he said.
American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee executive director Hedy Weinberg has said that her group will pursue litigation if the enforcement bill becomes law.
She told the committee the state should not be dealing with immigration, “but the federal government should.”
Her statement seemed to agitate committee chairman Curry Todd, who said the federal government is irresponsible when it comes to the issue.
“We wouldn’t be here if the federal government would do their job; Obama and the rest of them up there,” said the Collierville Republican. “That’s why the states are getting involved in it.”
According to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures, states passed 346 immigration-related laws and resolutions last year — a record number. Six states introduced bills similar to Arizona’s, but none of them were enacted. So far this year, 11 states have introduced Arizona-style bills.
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — University of Arizona police continue to investigate the weekend death of a male student found in his dorm room. Police spokesman Juan Alvarez tells The Associated Press the cause of death is unknown, but right now police say there’s no indication of foul play or an ongoing threat to the community.
The UA confirmed Monday the identity of the student as 19-year-old Wilson Forrester. He was a sophomore at the Tucson school and was studying pre-sociology.
Alvarez says the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office is also involved in the investigation. Alvarez says it could take weeks before the forensic evidence investigation is completed. From the Tennessee Democratic Party:
Wilson Forrester, the 19-year-old son of Tennessee Democratic Party Chairmen Chip Forrester, passed away unexpectedly Saturday.
Wilson Forrester died in Tucson, Ariz., where he was a sophomore at the University of Arizona studying business finance.
Wilson leaves behind his father Chip, mother Alice Forrester, brother Evan Forrester and stepmother Gabrielle Mittelstaedt as well as scores of friends.
“Our family is deeply grateful for the outpouring of support during this trying time. Your thoughts and prayers give us strength,” Forrester said. “While Wilson’s death is tragic, his life was not. Wilson had an absolute passion for life and he adventured through each day with a sense of purpose and an open mind.”
A Celebration of Wilson’s Life will be held at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School, 700 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203, from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday, April 9. A Celebration of Life service will follow at 4 p.m. at the school.
At this time, the cause of death is not known, but foul play is not suspected. While results of the death investigation are forthcoming, the family asks for respectful consideration of their privacy.
A Facebook page, “In Memory of Wilson Waters Forrester,” has been set up for friends and family to offer remembrances.
In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made to the Wilson Waters Forrester Celebration of Life Fund, Acct: 183717507 at any First Tennessee bank branch or by sending a check to “Wilson Waters Forrester Celebration of Life Fund,” P.O. Box 198107, Nashville, TN 37219.
By Lucas Johnson
NASHVILLE — Business interests used to getting their way with Republicans at the state Capitol have run into an issue they may not be able to lobby away: new restrictions on illegal immigration.
Tennessee lawmakers behind a proposal that would require the state’s employers to prove their employees are legally authorized to work in the U.S. say they are listening to the business concerns, but they aren’t budging from their pursuit of greater accountability for companies.
The measure was among a set of immigration bills that passed the subcommittee on State and Local Government last week.
Another was an Arizona-style enforcement proposal that would allow local law enforcement agents to question suspects about their immigration status, and the other would require agencies to verify that applicants for public benefits are legally eligible for them.
Much of the focus was on the employer-related bill, which representatives of prominent business groups including the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the National Federation of Independent Business urged committee members to oppose.