The state of Tennessee is appealing the dismissal of its lawsuit against the federal government’s “voluntary” federal refugee-relocation program.
“The federal government is forcing the tax-paying citizens of Tennessee to fund the federal refugee resettlement program despite their elected state officials withdrawing from the program,” explained Kate Oliveri, a lawyer for the Thomas More Law Center, which is representing the state.
TMLC appealed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a federal court dismissed the case. Oliveri charged the court “erred, not only in allowing this usurpation of state funds, but also by holding that the General Assembly cannot bring a lawsuit to defend against any usurpation of its power.”
Tennessee withdrew from the federal program, but the federal government then assigned a private organization to run its resettlements in Tennessee, prompting the lawsuit.
The feds threatened to cut billions of dollars in funding from the state if it didn’t pay the costs of the program.
In the complaint, filed in 2017, TMLC explained there are critical constitutional questions, such as whether or not the federal government force the state to pay for a voluntary program from which it formally has withdrawn.
Citing Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ admonition that the states “are separate and independent sovereigns” and “sometimes they have to act like it,” the state authorized TMLC to file the appeal after the district court dismissed the case.
The state officially withdrew from the federal refugee resettlement program in 2007, but “the government continues, to this day, to commandeer state tax dollars to fund it,” TMLC said.
It’s all part of the fight over the settlement of refugees from the Middle East in small communities nationwide that escalated under the administration of Barack Obama and continues under the Trump administration.
One concern is that terrorists could be brought to the U.S. under the guise of being a refugee. Also, critics have noted that many “refugees” are simply young men looking for economic opportunities, and they are overwhelmingly Muslim.
The case was filed on behalf of the state of Tennessee, the Tennessee General Assembly, and state legislators Terri Lynn Weaver and John Stevens.
It charged that the federal refugee program violates the principles of state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment.
“Tennessee has a history of supporting the Tenth Amendment and state sovereignty,” the legal team explained. “In 2009, House Joint Resolution 108, which passed in the Senate 31-0 and in the House by 85-2, demanded that the federal government halt its practice of imposing mandates upon the states for purposes not enumerated by the U.S. Constitution.”
TMLC said that when Congress adopted the Refugee Resettlement Act in 1980, the intent was to assure full federal reimbursement for the costs. But those reimbursements soon were reduced and were eliminated entirely by 1991.
That left Tennessee taxpayers on the hook financially for a program imposed by Washington.
When the state withdrew, the federal government simply appointed Catholic Charities of Tennessee, a private group, to run it. The program is funded with taxpayer money.
The state contends the Constitution forbids the federal government from “commandeering state funds” to support the federal program.
Richard Thompson, the organization’s chief counsel, said: “This case involves critical constitutional issues regarding the appropriate balance between the powers of the federal government and the states. Our lawsuit and appeal focuses solely on the unconstitutional manner in which the federal program is currently operating in the state of Tennessee. The district court decision dismissing this case conflicts with several U.S. Supreme Court opinions upholding state sovereignty against overreach by the federal government. The purpose of this lawsuit is to preserve the balanced constitutional relationship between the Federal government and the States as intended by our Founding Fathers, and which is so crucial to our individual liberties.”
The TMLC brief contends the district court made a mistake in determining that the state failed to make a claim upon which relief could be granted.
The lower court also said it didn’t have subject-matter jurisdiction.
The brief said the effect of the federal governments’ actions is “to deprive Tennessee of its sovereignty and regulate it in its sovereign capacity.”
“The federal government therefore carries out its refugee resettlement program through economic dragooning of state funds and instrumentalitis, which is impermissible under the Tenth Amendment to the United States constitution and in excess of the federal government’s powers under the Constitution’s Spending Clause.”