The State of Tennessee filed a lawsuit on Monday against the federal government, alleging that its administration of the refugee resettlement program violates the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Tennessee withdrew from the Refugee Resettlement Program in 2007, however has seen approximately 2,000 refugees resettled in the state this fiscal year alone.
The lawsuit is authorized by Senate Joint Resolution 467 last year, which urged legal action to stop the federal government from appropriating state funds to implement its refugee program. “Operation of the federal refugee resettlement program commandeers Tennessee’s funds through Medicaid with the threatened loss of nearly $7 billion, amounting to 20 percent of its overall state budget – money that is needed fund services that are critical to the health and welfare of countless Tennesseans,” explained Tennessee’s legal counsel in the complaint.
Senator John Stevens (R-24) and Representative Terri Lynn Weaver (R-40) also joined the lawsuit. “The Constitution does not allow the Federal Government to force me as the elected representative of the 24th Senate District to implement federal programs while they sit in Washington insulated from the consequences,” commented Senator Stevens.
Tennessee is the first state to sue over the refugee program on Tenth Amendment grounds. The Tenth Amendment reserves all powers that are not delegated to the United States by the Constitution to the states. Texas and Alabama also separately sued the federal government over its refugee program last year and had their claims dismissed by the courts. Both states, however, sued the federal government on different legal grounds.
In its complaint, Tennessee asks the court to issue a declaratory judgment affirming the federal government has exceeded its power and halt any additional resettlement of refugees until the federal government absorbs all costs for the program. The state also asks to recover costs and attorney’s fees acquired as a result of this lawsuit.