Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s refusal so far to expand Medicaid under federal health reform could mean that Tennessee’s poorest residents won’t have access to health coverage in 2014 but some lawful immigrants will, according to the Chattanooga TFP. That’s because legal immigrants with incomes below 100 percent of the poverty level — $11,170 for a single person or $23,050 for a family of four — will be eligible for federal subsidies to buy private coverage through health insurance exchanges.
American citizens with the same income levels, however, can’t participate in the exchange because the law envisioned those with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level would be covered through the Medicaid expansion.
The politically ticklish contrast came about as a result of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
The act aims to provide coverage to millions of lower-income people in two ways. One is to mandate that most people have health insurance and to help those who can’t afford it by subsidizing purchase of private coverage on new state health insurance exchanges. People with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level could get subsidies.
The other is by expanding state Medicaid programs, which now cover mostly low-income pregnant mothers, children and some disabled people, to everyone whose income is up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
The court upheld the law but made Medicaid expansion optional rather than mandatory for states. Georgia, Alabama and many other Republican-led states have ruled out the expansion.
The prospect that legal immigrants, such as workers and refugees, will be insured but not the state’s poorest residents is “quite an irony,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of the Washington-based health advocacy group Families USA.
He said Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, cited that fact among others when she recommended her state expand Medicaid.
Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, said the Supreme Court ruling sets up a political dilemma.
“If you’re a state that doesn’t do the expansion, there will be two groups of people below 100 percent of the poverty level: citizens, who will likely get nothing, [and] legal immigrants, who get fully subsidized coverage in the exchange. … That’s not going to sit well with folks.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Davidson County election training session is coming under scrutiny for teaching poll workers to challenge voters they believe may not be U.S. citizens.
Davidson County Election Commissioner Eddie Bryan, a Democrat, told The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/R1l8yV) he believed the training was designed to block immigrants from legally voting.
But Republican election officials said it was designed to teach poll workers how to deal with a potential challenge.
Under the state’s Challenge the Right to Vote Act, poll workers may ask a voter to take an oath that they have the right to vote. Those refusing the oath cannot vote.
The training last month told poll workers that citizenship requires the ability to read, write and speak basic English, but it noted exceptions for immigrants over 50 and those with impairments.
News release from Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition:
Nashville – SB3345, the “Eliminating Diversity in Charter Schools” bill, passed the Senate Education Committee this afternoon on a voice vote. The legislation was drafted by the Tennessee Eagle Forum, as a continuation of their controversial, anti-Muslim campaign from last year. As originally introduced, SB3345 would prevent any noncitizen from serving on the board of a charter school; in its current form, the bill establishes arbitrary restrictions on the nationality and ethnicity of teachers, regardless of their qualifications or suitability for the subject matter.
SB3345 and its House counterpart are being sponsored by Senator Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Representative Matheny (R-Tullahoma), the same sponsors as the Eagle Forum’s 2011 bill that would have equated sharia and the practice of Islam with terrorism.
The following is a statement from Sabina Mohyuddin, a Muslim community leader in Tullahoma, and board member of the American Muslim Advisory Council:
“We understand the intention behind this bill and it is unfortunate that our elected officials are playing the same game as last year trying to marginalize Tennessee Muslims. No lawmaker should support legislation that prevents immigrants from fully engaging in their children’s education. This bill was designed to exclude immigrant parents and teachers from participating in charter schools, frustrating efforts to tailor our kids’ education to meet the needs of our communities.
“Today’s vote reflects not only a radical new effort to regulate the charter school system, but also the ability of a handful of legislators and lobbyists to derail the legislative agenda with mean-spirited, anti-immigrant proposals. This is an anti-Muslim bill shrouded in anti-immigrant language, and represents the latest effort of a radical, special interest group to make Tennessee unwelcoming to people from other countries.”
Restrictions on immigrants’ involvement in Tennessee charter schools would be imposed by legislation that is the subject of a Tennessean report today. The measure, Senate Bill 3345, says chartering authorities may not approve schools that plan to have more than 3.5 percent of their staff made up of legal immigrants with visa work permits. The bill also calls on authorities to revoke schools’ charters later if they exceed the cap, and it requires schools to disclose the source of all donations from overseas.
There is no record of any schools in Tennessee exceeding that limit, in part because records aren’t maintained on employees’ nationality
The Tennessee Eagle Forum, which drafted the bill, is affiliated with the Eagle Forum, a national organization that wants to reduce the number of visas available to foreign-born workers and opposes the use of textbooks that it sees as favorable to Islam.
Last year, the Tennessee Eagle Forum urged lawmakers to pass the Material Support to Designated Entities Act, which would have declared some followers of Shariah to be terrorists. Muslim groups vigorously opposed the bill, arguing that Shariah covers a broad set of Islamic traditions, many of which have nothing to do with warfare or secular law.
Legislators later stripped out references to religion.
Like the Material Support to Designated Entities Act, this latest bill is sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, and Senate Republican Caucus Chairman BillKetron, R-Murfreesboro.
Supporters say the measure is meant to encourage the hiring of Tennessee and American-born teachers by charter schools.
“The state of Tennessee is stating a preference that charter schools look to hire U.S. and Tennessee workers as a priority,” said Joanne Bregman, an attorney for the Tennessee Eagle Forum.
But charter school advocates fear the bill’s broad provisions could limit the ability of schools to hire the best instructors. Immigrant groups, meanwhile, fear it could limit participation in charter schools by people living in immigrant communities.
“The intent of this bill is really to put up barriers for anyone with a foreign background to be involved with working at charter schools,” said Remziya Suleyman, director of policy and administration for the American Center for Outreach, a Nashville-based group that lobbies on behalf of Muslims. “The tendency already is that it’s very difficult to get immigrants and refugees to participate.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The sponsor of a bill that would make it a felony to harbor or transport an illegal immigrant has withdrawn the measure from consideration.
The bill had been scheduled for a vote in the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Immigrants’ rights activists claimed victory for the change. A news release from the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition said members and supporters had asked their legislators to oppose the measure.
Bill sponsor Rep. Tony Shipley said their actions had nothing to do with his decision.
The Kingsport Republican said his main concern was to prevent human trafficking, and other bills that have been introduced this session already address that issue.
Shipley’s bill mirrors portions of a controversial Alabama law that is the subject of several lawsuits.
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.”
By Travis Lollar
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Southern Baptist Convention approved a new resolution at its meeting in Arizona this week advocating a path to legal status for illegal immigrants, in a move that policy leader Richard Land described as “a really classic illustration of gospel love and gospel witness.”
The resolution passed Wednesday also calls on Southern Baptists to minister to all people and to reject bigotry and harassment toward all people, regardless of their country of origin or immigration status.
“I think Southern Baptists understand it’s just not politically viable to send an estimated 12 to 15 million undocumented immigrants back where they came from,” said the Rev. Paul Jimenez, pastor of Taylors First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., and chairman of the SBC’s resolutions committee. “It’s not humane either.”
A motion to strike the reference to a path to legal status was narrowly defeated by a vote of 766 to 723, according to the SBC’s Baptist Press.
An illegal immigrant worker had a role in the first fatal accident this year on the Henley Bridge reconstruction project, the victim in a second fatal accident may have been here illegally, and a federal investigation is under way to determine if contractor Britton Bridge LLC knowingly hired illegal immigrants, according to state documents.
More from the News Sentinel story: The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development is working with the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division, but the federal agency “will take the lead investigation in this matter,” state Labor Commissioner Karla Davis said in a June 10 memo.
“They have subpoenaed the work records of Britton Bridge,” she added in the memo to Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer.
Britton Bridge spokesman John Van Mol said the company has a policy of hiring only U.S. citizens or immigrants who have proper work documentation, but may have been duped by quality bogus documents. He said the firm has voluntarily suspended bidding on any new projects until it can enter a more effective employment eligibility verification system.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The sponsor of a bill seeking to require students to provide their citizenship status when they register for public schools has withdrawn the measure for the year.
Republican Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver of Lancaster said Tuesday it was with a “heavy heart” that she abandoned the measure to check Social Security numbers, passports or birth certificates.
She said the bill (HB1085) was opposed by lobbyists, members of the House State and Local Government Committee and school superintendents.
Weaver said the proposal was meant to determine how many illegal immigrants are in Tennessee public schools and what their enrollment costs.
Republican Rep. Curry Todd of Collierville, the panel’s chairman, ruled out attempts by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville to respond to Weaver’s comments.