ACLU-TN and TIRRC Statements on State's Appeal of Anti-Refugee Lawsuit

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
May 10, 2018 12:00 pm

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JACKSON, Tenn. — The 110th Tennessee General Assembly today filed an appeal in its lawsuit attempting to block refugee resettlement in the state.

Last March a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit on multiple grounds, including the Tennessee General Assembly’s lack of standing to bring the lawsuit and the state’s failure to show that refugee resettlement in Tennessee violates the U.S. Constitution.

The Tennessee attorney general had previously declined to file the suit, concluding that it would likely lose in court, so state legislators hired an outside firm to file it.

In June, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Tennessee had filed a motion to intervene in the state’s lawsuit in order to defend refugee resettlement in Tennessee. The ACLU filed this motion on behalf of groups serving Tennessee refugees, including the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Bridge Refugee Services Inc., and the Nashville International Center for Empowerment. The groups also filed legal arguments explaining why the Tennessee General Assembly’s lawsuit should be thrown out. The court ruled that the ACLU’s motion to intervene was rendered moot by its dismissal of the state’s lawsuit.

Organizational leaders had the following reactions to today’s appeal:

Hedy Weinberg, executive director, ACLU of Tennessee

“The 110th Tennessee General Assembly’s commitment to persecuting people fleeing violence and terror is deeply troubling. As a federal judge has already pointed out, the state has failed to show that refugee resettlement in Tennessee is unconstitutional. There is no reason to attack vulnerable families fleeing from terrorism — other than politicians’ personal animus toward Muslims. This discriminatory attitude is not shared by the majority of Tennesseans, who believe in compassion toward those in need and fair treatment of refugees. We hope that the 6th Circuit quickly affirms the district court’s thoughtful decision.”

Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition

“It’s alarming that a small group of legislators could choose to ignore a judge’s well-reasoned dismissal of this extreme lawsuit and to continue dragging our state’s reputation through the mud, just so they can score a few political points this election season.

Tennesseans want to uphold our values and ensure that families fleeing war and violence can seek refuge and rebuild their lives here. Tennesseans want their leaders to solve real problems and make life better for all of us, not spend time and resources trying to keep victims of war from finding safety.

After passing the country’s most extreme, anti-immigrant bill to make Tennessee the mass deportation state, some legislators seem to be committed to doing everything in their power to cement our state’s reputation as the most hateful and unwelcoming state in the country.”

The court’s March 19, 2018 order of dismissal can be found here:

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