June 2, 2017

JACKSON, Tenn. — Groups serving Tennessee refugees are taking legal action against the state legislature’s efforts to block refugee resettlement.

State lawmakers who oppose refugee resettlement sued the federal government in March, contending that the federal refugee resettlement program improperly impinges on state sovereignty. The Tennessee attorney general previously declined to file the suit, concluding it would likely lose in court.

The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Tennessee represent the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Bridge Refugee Services Inc., and the Nashville International Center for Empowerment, which are seeking to intervene in the case to defend refugee resettlement in Tennessee. The groups also filed legal arguments explaining why the General Assembly’s lawsuit should be thrown out.

The following are quotes from:

Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director, ACLU of Tennessee:
“By insisting on filing a fear-driven and dangerous lawsuit that targets vulnerable families and selecting a legal group known for its radical anti-Muslim ideology to represent the General Assembly, Tennessee legislators have laid their cards on the table. The actions of these politicians betray the values of fair treatment, equality, and compassion that Tennesseans embrace.

“We are intervening in this lawsuit to resist this cruel attempt to stop the resettlement of refugees in Tennessee — which is fueled by discrimination and animus toward Muslims that extends to the White House. The majority of Tennesseans believe in helping those fleeing violence and terror to protect their families. With our partners, the ACLU is committed to making clear that these kinds of malicious attacks on our Muslim neighbors have no place in Tennessee.”

Stephanie Teatro, Co-Executive Director, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition:
“For too many years, the Tennessee legislature has put our state at the forefront of the anti-refugee movement, seeking to erode support for the resettlement program for political gain. This extreme lawsuit is a betrayal of our state's values, and if successful, would cause real harm to our refugee members who already call Tennessee home and to their family members abroad who can't wait to be resettled here and reunited with their loved ones. We are so proud to represent our many members across the state in defense of the life-saving work of refugee resettlement, to stand up for our values as Tennesseans, and to ensure that Tennessee continues to be a place where families fleeing violence and persecution can find safety and opportunity.”

Susan Speraw, Chair, Board of Directors, Bridge Refugee Services Inc.:
“The people of Tennessee have welcomed refugees as their neighbors and friends, hired refugees and valued their work, patronized businesses started by refugee entrepreneurs, and celebrated with refugees who have become citizens. We are seeking to intervene in this lawsuit because we believe that resettlement is more than a job — as human beings, it is our obligation to protect the dignity of all and mitigate the suffering of vulnerable people.”

Dov Hirsch, Chair, Board of Directors, Nashville International Center for Empowerment:

“Refugee support services are critical to building and enriching Nashville’s inclusive climate — creating prosperous businesses, organizations, institutions, and communities. The Nashville International Center for Empowerment has delivered vital support to immigrants and refugees in Middle Tennessee for more than a decade. This suit, if successful, would effectively eliminate our ability to assist the most vulnerable populations of newly arrived refugees, and would weaken our thriving community.”

The legal documents are here:

http://www.aclu-tn.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Memo-in-Support-of-Motion-to-Intervene_Redacted.pdf

http://www.aclu-tn.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Memo-in-Support-of-Motion-to-Dismiss-Redacted-1.pdf

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