For the less fearful Commissioners, they should know that they are being given misleading information on the refugee resettlement issue.
With regard to the issue of refugee resettlement, it would seem that county commissioners would be guided by the voters who put them into office.
Not so at the recent Coffee County Commission meeting where the commissioners voted to table until the February meeting, a resolution that says they want to stay out of the refugee resettlement program.
Looking for any excuse not to act, Commissioner Helen Debellis who wanted a motion to postpone considering the resolution also said that, “she doesn’t want to make state officials mad with the resolution without making sure they have all their facts together. ‘I don’t want to make the hand that feeds me mad,’” said Debellis.
What’s Debillis so afraid of? Denial of construction permits? A vindictive Governor?
What Debellis should be more concerned about is not listening to voters and supporting her state legislators. Rep. Rush Bricken has signed both the resolution which supports the state’s Tenth Amendment lawsuit challenging the federal refugee resettlement program, and Rep. Ron Gant’s bill, HB1929, which addresses the unConstitutional action of the federal government transferring the costs of it’s program to the state without an appropriation by the General Assembly.
Both these legislative actions make it clear that neither the federal government, nor any branch of the state government (ie, the executive branch), have the Constitutional authority to bypass the General Assembly when spending public money.
As an aside, it seems the Governor may have stepped into a similar problem with his school voucher program.
The Coffee County Commissioners were also likely misled by information provided by both the TN County Services Association (TCSA) and Holly Johnson, the State Refugee Coordinator who works for Catholic Charities of Tennessee (CCTN).
David Connor, Director of the TCSA has circulated a letter to county commissioners “advising” them about President Trump’s Executive Order 1388 which asked governors and local counties to weigh in on whether to accept refugees who are brought to their counties by federal contractors like the CCTN.
“The TCSA report said if the county was not contacted by a specific agency to accept refugees then there is nothing the county needs to do. Under the executive order, the county can only opt-in or consent into receiving refugees.”
The TCSA letter sent to county commissions also tried to tie refugee resettlement to the four urban counties – “[t]his has primarily been an issue affecting the four largest urban counties.” (Be sure to compare the info here with the TCSA version).
Holly Johnson pretty much walks in lock-step with the TCSA.
What neither the TCSA nor Johnson bothered to tell them is that the FY2020 Funding Notice is part of the package of federal documents which must be read alongside the President’s Executive Order because as the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement has directed, the Funding Notice “operationalizes” the Executive Order.
The Funding Notice which funnels taxpayer money to the federal resettlement contractors that Johnson advocates for, says that refugees can be placed between 50 – 100 miles away from the resettlement agency’s office.
And that’s been happening in Tennessee for quite some time and regardless of what Johnson says, there is no rule that requires the resettlement agency to get the county’s consent because the federal government says they can do it!
Actual arrival data reported by TOR shows that during the October 2014 – 2019 time period, federal contractors have placed refugees outside of the four urban areas including in the following counties: Montgomery, Rutherford, Sevier, Williamson, Roane, Sumner, Wilson, Fayette, Bedford, Anderson, Bradley, Coffee and Washington.
Then there’s the case of Rutherford County where no resettlement agency is located but which has been used as an initial resettlement site at least since 2012.
And Holly Johnson who is almost always moved to tears when she talks about her cash cow refugee program, didn’t seem terribly concerned about the refugees dumped in Rutherford County motel room by federal contractor World Relief which then closed its Nashville office. Johnson indicated that “ensuring whether refugee contractor World Relief provided food and clothing to the refugees it resettled, was not her responsibility.”
Despite shafting these refugees, World Relief continues to operate in Memphis, where Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris (former state Senator), held a ceremonial letter signing including World Relief’s director, consenting to continued refugee resettlement.
Mayor Harris, along with the mayors from Knox and Davidson counties sit on the TCSA board. These are the three largest counties where federal refugee profiteers make their money.
These three counties also house mini-me TIRRCs – Centro Hispano in Knoxville supported in part with money from Pilot and La Raza Randy Boyd’s PetSafe.
TIRRC and Conexion Americas in Nashville, and Latino Memphis in Shelby County.
These organizations use refugees to help shield their advocacy for illegal aliens like opposing the anti-sanctuary city bill so that illegal aliens who commit crimes return to the community as opposed to being deported.
These organizations are being joined by groups like Indivisible in Greene County.
President Trump’s Executive Order was perfectly clear that county governments had a say along with a state’s governor.
Regardless, the arrogant Bill Lee declared otherwise – he said that counties would have to defer to him.
Bill Lee believes he has consented for the whole state and can force feed refugees into any county he chooses. So counties would be wise to formally object if they disagree with the Governor. In the end silence may equate to acceptance. The EO, the Funding Notice, the State Department Report to Congress and even the Department of Justice response to the VOLAG lawsuit trying to enjoin the EO, repeatedly say that they really want to just try and put refugees in communities that want to support them.
So Commissioners, maybe that’s why you need to say whether or not you want refugees to be resettled in your county.