Thanks to Tennessee and the Thomas More Law Center, a new front is opening in the judicial war over vital questions about American federalism and whether states must accept migrants imposed on them by federally sponsored (but no longer funded) refugee resettlement programs. See First in the Nation — Tennessee Files Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality of the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program.
Two Tennessee legislators, State Senator John Stevens and Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, have caused the state to sue the federal government to end its practice of settling “refugees” (in quotes because it’s difficult to determine who truly is a refugee—and the feds don’t try very hard) without the state’s consent and without reimbursing Tennessee for the associated costs.
Tennessee alleges the federal government is violating the state’s sovereignty by abusing the Spending Clause of the Constitution, through forcing Tennessee to spend state funds on programs the state legislature declines to fund, and also is ignoring the Tenth Amendment
Americans should rejoice that a State has rediscovered that long-disdained amendment:
Tennessee’s complaint [PDF] tells the sorry story of the Ted Kennedy-sponsored Refugee Resettlement Act of 1980 and Tennessee. Senator Kennedy lied—as he had about the nation-breaking immigration “reform” of 1965—about the Act’s impact on communities. Over time the costs of supporting resettled refugees were shifted from the federal government—as the Act provides—to recipient states. Tennessee decided in 2007 to opt out of refugee resettlement because of the failure of federal funding, but State Department and HHS have coerced the state into taking refugees anyway through threats to cut its Medicaid funding.
Tennessee’s point: by coercing the State into actions Tennesseans’ representatives refuse to take—actions the Constitution gives the feds no power to impose—the U.S. government unconstitutionally undermines the state’s sovereignty, usurping powers the Tenth Amendment reserves to the states.
Trump’s Secretaries of State and HHS are the named defendants, but this is one suit he should agree with. Trump says, essentially, that Americans should determine what aliens we’ll let settle among us. Tennessee says the same.
Constitutionally, Tennessee is in the right and should prevail—although being right is no guarantee of getting the correct ruling from our politicized judiciary. The case is pending before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.
It’s fitting Donald Trump chose to honor President Andrew Jackson, in Tennessee, on the 150th anniversary of Jackson’s birth. Jackson offers President Trump a significant example: presented a Supreme Court decision he believed wrong, Andrew Jackson’s reaction was, in effect, “the Supreme Court has made its decision, now let it enforce it!’”
The Court chose not to try.