Breaking news: Tennessee legislature votes to sue feds over refugee program

It is an understatement to say that this is a significant development!  I have no time to give you all the details of the states’ rights lawsuit, so please read the story yourselves at Breitbart by clicking here.  Michael Patrick Leahy begins his report on the great news:

Mark Norris
Senator Mark Norris a leading co-sponsor of the resolution. Under Tennessee law, the governor is not required to sign a resolution.

NASHVILLE, Tennessee–On Tuesday, the Tennessee General Assembly declared it will sue the federal government over its refugee resettlement program on Tenth Amendment grounds. The State Senate passed a resolution authorizing that lawsuit in a 29 to 4 vote one day after it passed the Tennessee House by a 69 to 25 margin.

“Today we struck a blow for Liberty by finally adopting SJR467,” State Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville), the co-sponsor of the resolution who shepherded it through the State Senate, tells Breitbart News.

Continue reading here.

See all of our coverage of the issue in Tennessee by clicking here.

I’ll be in DC tomorrow for meetings, so consequently I won’t be on top of all the latest news on the refugee front until I’m back on Thursday (and there is a lot of news)!

Tennessee legislature moves one step closer to states’ right lawsuit on refugee program

This is a big deal!

Just yesterday we reported that Syrian refugees resettled in Memphis, TN are dumpster diving because they don’t have jobs and apparently their resettlement agency (a contractor of the federal government) doesn’t raise enough private charitable money to help them!


Tennessee legislators have had enough of Washington making decisions for Tennessee taxpayers and are moving a resolution through the legislative process that in the end could result in a states’ rights lawsuit against the UN/US State Department Refugee Admissions Program.

Here is the latest from Michael Patrick Leahy writing for Breitbart:

NASHVILLE, Tennessee–The Tennessee General Assembly is on track to sue the federal government over the refugee resettlement program on Tenth Amendment grounds after Senate Joint Resolution 467 cleared its last substantive hurdle in the Tennessee House Finance Committee.

The resolution sailed through the committee on a voice vote, and is now headed to the Calendar and Rules Committee, which will schedule a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives some time during the next seven days. The resolution is expected to pass in a landslide, as 74 of the House’s 99 members have already signed on as sponsors.

In February, the resolution easily passed the State Senate by a 27 to 5 margin.

“As SJR 467 is moving forward, other states will read our actions. I am pleased that seventy-four of my colleagues believe wholeheartedly that Tennessee is responsible for asserting our state’s sovereignty rights under the Tenth Amendment,” State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster), the sponsor of the resolution in the House, tells Breitbart News.

Rep Weaver is the chief sponsor of the resolution and was joined by 74 of her fellow legislators.

“We have seen unprecedented federal overreach during the Obama administration. We need clarity and definition concerning the relationship between the federal government and our state when it comes to appropriations to pay for the federal Refugee Resettlement Program,” Weaver adds.

It is now a virtual certainty that the Tennessee General Assembly will file the lawsuit in federal court, as the Thomas More Law Center, a well-respected conservative public interest law firm, has said it will represent the state of Tennessee at no cost, even if Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery chooses not to litigate the case.

Continue reading here.

You can do this too!

Readers, this is not a lawsuit only for Tennessee.  If you live in one of these so-called ‘Wilson-Fish’ states, your state too could be a plaintiff (because of the way the program has been structured in these states)…..

…..if your governor had guts!

Wilson Fish states: Alaska, Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, South Dakota, North Dakota, Tennessee and Vermont.

Go here for our complete archive on the Wilson-Fish program.

Tenth Amendment poster above right can be ordered by going here:

Tennesseans urged to sign petition, Governor must hear from the people!

Editor:  This is a guest post by Don Barnett, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and a resident of Tennessee. 

If you are from Tennessee, the most important thing you can do is to post this information on your facebook page/other social media, and send to your e-mail lists.
Since the governor is supporting the status quo on refugee resettlement in Tennessee, TN he needs to hear from the people. Be sure to let your other elected officials know how you feel as well.



Don BarnettSupporters of maintaining the status quo in refugee resettlement in Tennessee – that is, allowing the federal contractor to run the program for its own benefit without a requirement that it report refugee social services usage or accurately report the numbers resettled – often point out that refugees pay more in taxes than they consume in benefits, so why all the fuss?

The resettlement program is so little understood and secretive that the contractors can make blatantly false statements and be assured those statements will be reported as fact by the media.

As reported in The Tennessean, the contractor notes that “a 2013 report presented to the Joint Government Operations Legislative Advisory Committee determined that refugees and their descendants provided $1.4 billion in revenue for Tennessee between 1990 and 2012, compared with requiring $753 million in state support.”

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R) doesn’t want to rock the boat on refugee flow to TN. Photo:

The 2013 study was actually very limited and makes no such sweeping conclusion.

In assessing the cost of publicly funded benefits for refugees the study looked at just 2 programs – public education (including ELL) and Tenncare(Medicaid). It ignored a whole range of programs which Tennesseans use and fund both with Tennessee tax dollars and as federal tax payers.

Sen. Mark Norris noted that at last count 11 state funded programs were being accessed by arriving refugees.

The study assumed that refugees were using Tenncare (Medicaid) at the same rate as average Tennesseans even though up to 59% of refugees have been placed into Tenncare upon arrival in recent years.

A recent federal study found staggering welfare usage rates even among those in the country for 5 years – majority still on food stamps, 44% on Medicaid, 29 % of families with one or more members on SSI, 17% on TANF and so on.

In spite of known high welfare usage among refugees, the report assumed refugees pay state taxes at the same rate as average Tennesseans.

The study, which was supposed to have determined to what extent the feds had placed an unfunded mandate on the state of Tennessee, was hijacked by the pro-refugee lobby, i.e. the local Chamber of Commerce and refugee contractors.

The seemingly positive outcome of the study was foreordained even though the study authors themselves concluded “The information necessary to complete a comprehensive study on the possible cost shifting from the federal government to the state for the resettlement of refugees is not available.” And even though a complete reading of the study does not allow for any positive conclusion despite refugee industry statements.

Perhaps Tennesseans best hope is passage of senate resolution SJR467 which would allow The Thomas More Law Center to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement on 10th amendment grounds. The public services law center will take the case at no charge to the state of Tennessee. Not only might it shed light on this program, but most importantly it would clarify to what extent, if any, the federal government can force a state to use state taxes to cover unfunded costs imposed by a federal program.

The resolution has overwhelming support in both houses of the Tennessee legislature but has stirred fierce opposition from the usual suspects, including Governor Haslam.

All Tennesseans concerned with this should sign the petition included here and tell the Governor to stop trying to block the democratic process.

For our extensive Tennessee archive, click here.  See here for background on what the governor is doing.

This political work on-going in Tennessee, on the question of refugee resettlement and states’ rights, is groundbreaking!

Guest post: Details of refugee contractor reports will shock you!

Editor:  This is one in our series of guest posts we publish from time to time. This one comes to us from a reader and reminds us of what you as grassroots activists can do (in the comfort of your homes!) to ferret-out information about the secretive refugee admissions program.  It might take you awhile since the US State Department is notoriously slow (if they respond at all) to Freedom of Information Act requests, but it is well worth the time and effort, as you will see.

Indeed, reports like those discussed below were not given to Judicial Watch in a timely manner last year and JW has since sued the State Department to obtain them.

We mentioned these planning documents in our previous post when a Colorado County Commissioner said they were never given any notice about refugee arrivals. The contractors know in advance and are keeping that information from local elected officials.

When the bill that became the Refugee Act of 1980 made its way through Congress, members were told that this was not a program to import more poverty to America, but when you read this post you will see that is exactly what is happening.

 You can be sure that what we learn below is happening wherever refugees are resettled in 48 states!

Refugees to TN by County 2015
Catholic Charities oversaw the resettlement of 1,578 refugees to Tennessee in FY 2015. This map represents the counties to which they were distributed.


Refugee Resettlement in their own words

Typical of the refugee resettlement industrialists, they say one thing to the public and another among themselves.

Looking through a stack of annual resettlement plans written by the local resettlement agencies and sent, in advance of the federal fiscal year, to Washington it’s understandable why these proposals are aggressively hidden from public scrutiny.  One VOLAG even circulated an internal memo telling the local offices to refuse any public request for these plans. [This is something we learned about previously—ed]

Imagine if the public knew what the federal contractors really have planned for the host communities.

Arguably, these non-governmental organizations are shielded in many instances, from state open records laws, even though the organizations are predominantly funded with public dollars.  But, the proposals can be obtained using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) once the documents are in the possession of the U.S. State Department.

A 2014 FOIA submission was finally answered in December 2015.  It produced the annual proposed resettlement plans for all the resettlement agencies operating in Tennessee for FY2009 through FY2013.

The documents also suggest that once a state withdraws from the federal program and ORR appoints its own replacement, the federally contracted State Refugee Coordinator who typically works for one of the NGO resettlement agencies, gets a say in approving the number of refugees that will be brought to a state.


Below are excerpts from some of the resettlement plans:

Episcopal Migration Ministries (doing business as Bridge Refugee Services)

  • “The agency’s partnerships with Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise and Chattanooga Housing Authority ensure that approximately 50% of clients are resettled into subsidized housing at a rental rate of $50 per month.”
  • “Two of the complexes are public housing units operated by Knoxville Community Development Corporation, which feature spacious units, on-site property management and very affordable monthly rents.”
  • “The Bridge sub-office coordinator regularly participates in Chamber of Commerce meetings to learn about new employers or hiring opportunities.
  • “Refugee household income after the R&P [Reception & Placement] period usually includes MG [federal Match Grant] assistance, RCA [federal refugee cash assistance], TANF [state cash welfare], food stamps, SSI and additional programs as needed.”

World Relief

  • “The Nashville area offers numerous services through other non-profit organizations to refugees with critical and emergency needs. Refugees can visit the Nashville Rescue Mission for shelter [a homeless organization], food and safety, as well as Room in the Inn [a homeless organization] which provides working men with a hot meal and a place to sleep during the winter months.  There are several shelters for abused women in the area where refugee women and children can find safety if necessary.  Rooftop Ministries provides one-time assistance with rent payments: Wherry Housing Complex in Rutherford County houses refugees and others recovering from alcohol and substance abuse and has a Community Servants program to meet refugee needs.”

[So, the federal contractor gets paid to bring the refugees to Tennessee and then refers them to homeless, substance abuse and domestic violence shelters!]

Church World Service

  • “Several strong partnerships exist between Bridge and employers and they often come to Bridge first when hiring.”
  • “Employers in Knoxville are beginning to feel the effect of the economic downturn but are committed to hiring refugees.”

ECDC (doing business as the Nashville International Center for Empowerment)

  • “NICE has relationships with local businesses that hire refugees, and since NICE is 60% operated by former refugees who have work relationships with local businesses, and lucrative partnerships are easily established and maintained.”
  • “Refugees also qualify for and can access subsidized public housing.”
  • “In Nashville there are many social service agencies to which NICE refers refugees for services including rent utility and food.”

USCCB (doing business as Catholic Charities of Tennessee)

  • “Memphis’ outmigration for FY07 was reported at 43% but nearly all of these clients (21 people) were a part of Somali cases. These cases relocated to Minnesota which has a larger ethnic community, ….and more welfare state subsidized housing.”
  • “The DHS worker responsible for enrolling refugees for food stamps and TennCare [Medicaid] health coverage meets with our Self-Sufficiency Coordinator every Tuesday morning and routinely discusses the number of arrivals we are expecting.”
  • “On June 14, 2010 CC [Catholic Charities] and the SRC discussed the agency’s resettlement program and approved that we can resettle 240 refugees in FY2011…”

[So does this mean that State Refugee Coordinators can also “not approve” proposed resettlement numbers?  Maybe Texas and other non-Wilson Fish states ought to try that route!]

  • “Our relationships with employers are extremely strong and we now find ourselves in the position of being called upon when they have openings, rather than us having to seek them out.”

“The Sheriff’s Department provides inmates and a truck to assist us in moving furniture and setting up apartments twice per week.”

If you would like to get started on your own Freedom of Information Act requests, here are some sample letters.  If you are looking for the planning documents discussed above, be sure to ask for those for FY2016 (in addition to previous years) and you might ask for all planning documents “including but not limited to the R & P Abstracts” for ____state.

This is a hot issue in Tennessee at the moment as the State Senate has passed a resolution to initiate a States’ Rights lawsuit in an effort to halt the resettlement program in Tennessee, see most recent post here.

See this post and others like it in our category entitled ‘Comments worth noting/guest posts.’

Local and state taxpayers do contribute to refugee welfare

Over and over again we hear from political leaders and grassroots organizers looking to bring refugees into new (unsuspecting) communities that this is a federal program funded by the feds.  (LOL! as if Washington has an orchard of money trees!)

However, this short model letter-to-the-editor in Tennessee quickly dispels the notion that the resettlement of refugees in your town will cost you nothing.

don-barnett (1)
Don Barnett, a resident of Tennessee, is a longtime expert on the US Refugee Admissions Program, and is a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies.

The letter, by Don Barnett of Nashville, is in response to the debate on-going in the State Legislature which we reported recently, here.  Tennessee is a Wilson-Fish state (a state where a federal contractor, Catholic Charities of TN, is making decisions for the state taxpayers with no accountability to those elected to protect the state’s purse).

Barnett in The Tennessean (emphasis is mine):

The reporting on Senate Joint Resolution 467 is proof that, at the very least, something must be done to bring the refugee resettlement program out of the shadows.

So misunderstood and secretive is the program that contractors who profit from it are able to make blatantly false statements and be assured they will be reported as fact.

According to Tennessee’s state refugee coordinator, who is an employee of the main federal resettlement contractor, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the program does not cost state taxpayers a dime.

But the contractors refuse to publicize the number of refugees they place into TennCare, a program paid for by state taxpayers as well as federal taxpayers. The last time they released this data, 2011, nearly 60 percent of refugees went into TennCare upon arrival.

The 2011 report of TennCare usage is consistent with national trends. According to the latest data available — a federal study of refugees who had been in the country five years or less as of 2013*** — 47 percent of refugees were dependent on cash assistance, 74 percent were in the food stamp program, and 56 percent were in Medicaid (TennCare) or short-term federal refugee medical assistance. Twenty-three percent were in public housing or receiving public housing assistance.

There is considerable evidence pointing to long-term dependence. The federal cash welfare program SSI is a good indicator of long-term welfare dependency rates. It is generally a lifetime entitlement and usually automatically includes Medicaid and other social services. The federal study of arrivals over the previous five years found that 21 percent of refugee families had one or more members receiving SSI.

For refugees from the Middle East, 91 percent of this population was on food stamps and 32 percent of families from this group had one or more members on SSI.

Is there really no cost to the state? And what about those costs to the federal government?

This is a letter you should use as a model where you live. Not mentioned by Barnett are the costs to local and state taxpayers to educate the children and the costs to the criminal justice system (for even minor legal infractions involving court interpreters).

***The report referenced here is the Office of Refugee Resettlement Annual Report to Congress for 2013.  You can find all of the very useful reports (as of today) through 2013, here.  But once again, the ORR is breaking the law!  As of January 31, 2016 they are TWO years behind in sending reports to Congress.

Where are the reports?

In December, Senator Jeff Sessions and Rep. Marsha Blackburn sent a letter to ORR wanting them to deliver the 2014 report, see here.  And, since reports to Congress are legally required to be delivered 3 months after the close of the fiscal year, ORR should now be providing the report for 2015 as well.  Are they hiding something at ORR or is it just sheer incompetence and mismanagement? It certainly looks like a (excuse the expression) middle finger to Congress.

Tennessee update: REPUBLICAN Governor may be sabotaging Legislature on refugee lawsuit resolution

HaslamYesterday we told you the big news that the Tennessee Senate, by an overwhelming margin, voted to ask the AG to file a Tenth Amendment lawsuit against the feds on the refugee resettlement program now in operation in the state (it is run by Catholic Charities and the feds with no state role).

It didn’t take the REPUBLICAN Governor long (apparently ready to endorse donor-class favorite Open Borders Marco) to martial his supporters to attempt to derail the resolution in the House.

Here is the latest from Michael Patrick Leahy at Breitbart.

“On the eve of his expected endorsement of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) for president, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is trying to surreptitiously bury a migrant-stopping resolution that was passed overwhelmingly by the State Senate on Monday.

The measure, which sailed through the full State Senate Monday on a 27 to 5 vote, is now pending in the House of ‎Representatives, where it is expected to pass easily.

But because of parliamentary tricks, it first faces a long, back-room journey through multiple committees before it can be approved by the House.

Beth Harwell
Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell with Koch brothers faux grassroots group sign behind her. Fascinating how everything is becoming clear in Election 2016!

“When I saw [Speaker of the Tennessee House] Beth Harwell put it [Senate Joint Resolution 467] in two subcommittees and two full committees I knew that was afoot,” one State Representative tells Breitbart News.

Governor Haslam cannot veto the resolution, but he is apparently trying to bury the resolution, which requests the Tennessee Attorney General to initiate a lawsuit against the federal government’s operation of the refugee resettlement program in Tennessee on Tenth Amendment grounds.”

Continue reading!  There is so much more juicy information.

About the photo at right:

Be sure to see my post on the Koch brothers and Americans for Prosperity here.  And, again here this morning.

In the heyday of the Tea Party movement the Koch brothers, obviously wishing to corral the Tea Party energy, created Americans for Prosperity.  It all sounded good, AFP supported lower taxes and opposed Obamacare (which helped the Kochs’ bottomline), but there was one big problem with the group as we all learned as time went on—they were silent on one of the major motivating issues of the Tea Party, namely immigration.  Charles and David Koch are open borders advocates.

The group, Americans for Prosperity, served as a shield (a sort of Tea Party stamp of approval) for Republicans apparently including Harwell and I expect Gov. Haslam as well.  However, again, AFP (which has pretty much fizzled) never lifted a finger against amnesty, the Gang of Eight bill, and certainly never to curtail the UN/US State Department Refugee Admissions Program.

Election 2016 is shaping up as a battle on the Republican side between those who want to limit immigration on behalf of American workers and those who don’t want to change the cultural make-up of their towns and cities; and those, like the Kochs, like Rubio and apparently like Governor Haslam who are in the pockets of the Chambers of Commerce and big business interests wanting the flow of cheap immigrant labor to continue.  Make no mistake, this is not about humanitarianism!

For new readers: we have an extensive archive on Tennessee, click here for many posts over eight years.  Tennessee is an important ‘pocket of resistance!’  How do we know?  The feds told us so here in 2013.

We have a special category just on Nashville alone, here.

Follow me on twitter, I’m excited to be reaching the 2,000 follower mark.  That is not a lot compared to others, but for me, a newbie, it is pretty exciting!

Tennessee legislature moves a step closer to filing states’ rights lawsuit on refugee program

All over the country, Pockets of Resistance,’ are forming to oppose the heavy-handed (secretive and costly) UN/US State Department Refugee Admissions Program.  Tennesseans get kudos for being among the first to be recognized as resisters by the federal government as I learned here at a 2013 meeting the Office of Refugee Resettlement held in Lancaster, PA.

Now, the legislature itself may be on the cusp of striking a real blow for states’ rights.

See Michael Patrick Leahy, here at Breitbart:

The state of Tennessee is one step closer to filing a Tenth Amendment lawsuit in federal court to end the United States Refugee Resettlement program in that state.

Jan Reeves & Holly Johnson
Think about it! Private citizens heading up non-governmental organizations: Holly Johnson (left) of Catholic Charities TN and Jan Reeves of Idaho’s Janus Inc. call the shots, along with the feds, about how much state taxpayers must shell out for refugee programs. You know it’s unconstitutional!

The Finance, Ways & Means Committee of the State Senate overwhelmingly passed Senate Joint Resolution 467 in a bi-partisan nine to one vote.

The resolution now goes to the State Senate floor, where it is likely to pass, then on the the State House, where it is also likely to pass.

In Tennessee, the state legislature (called the General Assembly) has the authority to file this lawsuit, which may prevail in the courts on Tenth Amendment grounds, if Republican Governor Bill Haslam fails to act.


The resolution was filed in the State Senate by Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey a little less than a month ago on January 22, and has moved quickly through the legislative process.

Unlike previous lawsuits filed by Texas and Alabama, which were not brought on 10th amendment grounds, this lawsuit could result in a victory. Such a victory would not prohibit refugees settled in other states by the Obama administration from entering the state of Tennessee. It would, however, prevent the State Department from settling those refugees initially in Tennessee under any circumstances, since such settlement requires the state of Tennessee to pay, in part, for their upkeep.

“Wilson-Fish alternative program” states including Tennessee and eleven others (Alaska, Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Vermont) who have opted out of the US Refugee Resettlement program have a strong 10th amendment suit against the federal government to stop the program in their states since it is “an unfunded mandate,” proponents of the resolution argue.


“In 2012, the Supreme Courte ruled in the now famous NFIB v Sebelius case in that case the Supreme Court said ‘a state cannot be compelled or coerced to participate in a federal program for which it has chosen not to participate.’

Continue reading here.

By the way, most people outside of Tennessee are shocked to learn that the state (especially Nashville) is a prime resettlement site for refugees seeded there by Catholic Charities in conjunction with the federal government.

Readers get moving!

For all of you in Wilson Fish states***, you must work to persuade your governor (or state legislature in some cases) to get on board with a 10th Amendment lawsuit ready to file at the Thomas More Law Center.  You ask me all the time, what can I do. Well, if you are a citizen in one of these states this is something you can do!

*** Alaska, Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, South Dakota, North Dakota, Tennessee and Vermont