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Tennessee Senate votes to direct attorney general to sue over refugee settlement

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state Senate has passed a resolution directing Tennessee’s attorney general to mount a legal challenge to the federal refugee resettlement program.

The chamber voted 27-5 on Monday to pass the resolution despite Republican Gov. Bill Haslam raising “reservations” last week about the Legislature trying to instruct the attorney general to sue. The governor said he doesn’t consider the refugees to be “stressing our system” in Tennessee.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville, a main sponsor of the resolution, said he was unaware of the governor’s comments and that the General Assembly will hire its own lawyer if Attorney General Herbert Slatery declines to get involved.

The measure will now head to the House.

Stephanie Teatro of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition said the resolution sends the message that Tennessee is an “intolerant and unwelcoming state.”

ACLU executive director Hedy Weinberg released the following statement:

“This resolution is a thinly-veiled attempt to halt refugee resettlement in Tennessee.  Closing our doors in the faces of families fleeing violence and terror undercuts who we are as Tennesseans.  In addition, the state does not have ‘veto power’ over refugee resettlement.  This resolution calls for discriminatory action in violation of the U.S. Constitution.  The arguments put forth in this resolution did not work in Texas and they won’t work here.”

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