Public Safety & Justice

Tennessee Files First-of-Its-Kind Lawsuit Over U.S. Refugee Policy

March 14, 2017

Tennessee became the first state in the nation on Monday to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement on the grounds of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of several state lawmakers Monday morning in the western district of Tennessee, alleges that the federal government has violated the 10th Amendment, which says the federal government possesses only the powers delegated to it by the U.S. Constitution and that all other powers are reserved for the states.

The charge that the federal government is not complying with the Refugee Act of 1980, based on the 10th Amendment, makes Tennessee's lawsuit the first of its kind. Other states have sued the federal government over refugee resettlement but on different legal grounds.

The nation continues to debate refugee resettlement and immigrant rights as it awaits President Donald Trump's new travel ban. The ban, set to take effect Thursday, bars travel for many people from six Muslim-majority counties and is considered by Trump's opponents to function essentially as a Muslim ban, although the administration denies this charge.

The lawsuit argues that the federal government has unduly forced states to pay for the refugee resettlement program. The federal refugee act was designed to create a permanent procedure for the admission of refugees into the United States.

The lawsuit asks the court to force the federal government to stop resettling refugees in Tennessee until all costs associated with the settlement are incurred by the federal government.

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