Tennessee lawmakers appeal refugee lawsuit to Supreme Court

Published 8:15 am Friday, March 20, 2020

NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee’s Republican-led Legislature has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider their failed challenge of the federal refugee resettlement program, which claims the state shouldn’t be forced to spend money on Medicaid and other services for refugees.

The petition this week claims lower courts wrongly ruled the Legislature lacks legal standing in the case.

The filing follows Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s decision in January to continue resettling refugees after President Donald Trump’s administration offered the option for states and local governments to stop.

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That option for states is blocked amid a court challenge. Lee’s decision spurred some Republican state lawmakers to file bills to limit his authority on refugees.

Tennessee stopped participating in the refugee program in 2008.

Catholic Charities of Tennessee administers a program under a law that says if a state withdraws, the federal government can pick a nonprofit to administer federal money for cash and medical assistance and social services to eligible refugees.

More than 2,000 refugees resettled in Tennessee during the 2016 budget year, then 478 in 2018 under Trump. The number hit 692 in 2019.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery declined lawmakers’ request to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement. Lawmakers are using pro-bono services from a third-party legal outfit.