With the exception of SB2245/HB2128, this year’s crop of GOP sponsored immigration bills show Republican legislators caving to the left’s agenda on illegal immigration.
SB2245/HB2128, sponsored by long-proven conservative Sen. Joey Hensley and Rep. John Crawford, in a nutshell, bars non-U.S. citizens including illegal aliens and lawful permanent residents (LPR, aka, green card holders), from voting in a federal, state or local election. Different categories of LPRs are eligible to adjust their immigration status to citizen. For example, refugees who are legally admitted to the U.S, through the overseas refugee program, are required to adjust their immigration status to LPR after one year and are then eligible four years later, to try and pass the citizenship test.
The bill also prohibits a local jurisdiction from granting a non-U.S. citizen the right to vote. All House Democrats voted in favor of the bill while all Senate Democrats voted against it.
Beyond this one bill, thanks to the GOP, the left is high-fiving itself all the way to the border.
SB2783/HB2868 sponsored by Republicans Sen. Bo Watson and Rep. Ryan Williams. Both legislators served on the summer’s misnamed Joint Study Committee on Refugees which was convened in response to the discovery of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) arrivals to Tennessee.
When it became public that the UAC arrivals, who enter the country illegally, were being housed in a federally-contracted facility in Chattanooga, legislative leadership felt compelled to spring into action! Adopting the love language of the left which refers to UACs as “refugees”, Tennessee’s leadership convened the Joint Study Committee on Refugees.
As defined in federal law, UACs have “no lawful immigration status in the United States”.
Were they confused by Congressman Mark Green’s bill which treated UACs as refugees? This was one of the very few times they should have listened to pro-refugee Bill Lee who, believe it or not, understands that UACs are not refugees – “[when] the Times Free Press asked specifically about the migrant children, the governor said the Times Free Press was conflating unaccompanied minors with refugees. “‘These are unaccompanied, illegal immigrant children,” Lee responded during the Monday news conference. “Those are two entirely separate issues.’”
Nevertheless, both Watson (who cheered on Green’s bill) and Williams, sponsored SB2783/HB2868, a bill initially intended to reopen a state office on refugee resettlement to track UAC arrivals. The bill was subsequently amended to remove the reopening of a state office and instead, to simply have after-the-fact arrival information sent to different legislative committees.
While presenting his bill, Rep. Williams repeatedly told his colleagues what a great job Catholic Charities is doing with the state’s refugee resettlement program and that the NGO is a “great partner to the state”.
After the GOP fortified Catholic Charities of Tennessee with the largest dump of money the non-profit has ever received, the rave reviews sound more like a justification for a questionable decision.
In November 2020, the state handed over $7.3 million dollars of taxpayer money to Catholic Charities to spread their infrastructure into ten new counties without any restrictions on also spreading their refugee resettlement activities.
Bottom line of the Watson-Williams bill is the knowing when illegal aliens arrive – that’s it.
SB2729/HB2711 sponsored by Republicans Sen. Dawn White and Rep. Dan Howell, the co-chairs of the misnamed Joint Study Committee on Refugees.
In direct contradistinction of quick steps taken in Florida with DeSantis’ emergency order to “ban the issuance or renewal of all state licenses to companies or NGOs that provide services to UACs” in his state, Tennessee legislators are actively creating a new category of state agency for UACs called the non-traditional child care agency (NCCA). As described by Rep. Howell, this initiative is intended to enable the state to better provide for the “safety and welfare” of the UACs because according to Howell, the “federal government says states have to”.
Howell was honest about the fact that UACs have no lawful immigration status, but lamented that his new child care license is “all that we can do” in the face of federal jurisdiction over immigration. Trying to soften the blow, committee chairman Andrew Farmer reminded everyone that the federal government has “exclusive jurisdiction even though we are a sovereign state”.
DeSantis clearly disagrees, because his administration followed up his emergency order with new rules that retains the bar on licenses for facilities housing UACs sent to Florida in the absence of a cooperative agreement between the state and the federal government.
Howell’s bill would limit the number of UACs housed in a dormitory style facility like the one in Chattanooga, limit the number of facilities across Tennessee and the facility owner would have to pay the state for each child. Importantly, Howell, the bill supporters and the Joint Study Committee members are leaving Bethany Christian Services’ (BCS) license untouched even though BCS, a federal contractor, testified that they provide transitional foster care services to UACs in Tennessee. In other words, they admitted that they facilitate illegal immigration in Tennessee.
Sen. White presented the Senate companion bill without ever mentioning that the new non-traditional child care agency was being created specifically for UACs.
The House and Senate bills are going to their respective Finance Committees; the House Finance Subcommittee passed it but placed it behind the budget.
Probably the most intelligent comment to come out of any committee on this bill was made by Democrat House member Mike Stewart. He made the point that if employers were thrown in jail for hiring “undocumented” workers, this could all come to a screeching halt. Stewart is right in mocking GOP concern about illegal alien kids given the GOP’s willingness to bend at the knee of NFIB and the TN Chamber who want to keep cheap labor flowing to the state as evidenced by the next bill on E-verify.
SB1780/HB1853 sponsored by Sen. Jon Lundberg and Rep. Clark Boyd. The bill was pretty much the amendment approved by the TN Chamber and the small business lobby NFIB, during the last legislative session when Rep. Griffey wanted to require all Tennessee employers regardless of the number of employees, to use E-verify (the Employment Eligibility Verification) program.
Unable to pass his bill, Griffey folded and accepted the meaningless 25 employee threshold, but the bill never advanced in the Senate that year.
The Chamber/NFIB 25 employee amendment now being sponsored as a bill by Rep. Boyd was amended in the Senate by Lundberg to raise the employee threshold to 35 or more employees. Lundberg was also forced (by a committee Democrat), to confirm that illegal immigrant workers can receive workers compensation albeit not at the same level as work authorized employees. Some make a credible argument that Tennessee law builds in an incentive to hire illegal immigrant workers.
After the House passed the 25 employee threshold bill, it backed down, re-voted and agreed to accept the Senate’s 35 employee threshold. Does the Tennessee GOP value legal workers? The concerns and devaluing of hard-working legal immigrants and U.S. citizens is secondary to GOP appeasement of the business community. Never mind their own conflicts of interest and their willingness to abet the destructive agenda of the left.
It is difficult to understand the GOP resistance to mandating use of E-Verify program for all businesses. E-Verify is a FREE federal database which checks the social security numbers of newly hired employees against Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security records to help ensure that the new employee is eligible to work in the U.S.
When Tennessee first passed its E-Verify law in 2011, businesses with 6 or more employees were required within one year to begin using it. In 2016, the General Assembly caved to special interest lobbyists and raised the employee threshold to 50 employees.
Consider that the highest number of UACs released into the U.S. are reported as boys ages 15 – 17+ except there are plenty of credible reports that the working age “boys” are actually adults lying about their age. Add to this factor, the reports documenting 67,000 illegal alien essential workers in Tennessee and the Metro Nashville government report of 31,000 illegal aliens living and working in Davidson County. Both reports are likely under estimating the numbers in light of the Biden open border policies.
SB2730/HB2712 sponsored by Sen. Dawn White and Rep. Dan Howell. This is another “now we’ll know after it happens” bill. This bill reflects particulars learned during the summer hearing mostly related to statutory limitations on the Department of Children’s Services as to how they issued the license to the facility in Chattanooga and then dealt with the license after discovery of criminal behavior by certain staff at the facility and the incident of a resident running away from the facility.
The “child” who left the facility was discovered to have somehow made it back to his country of origin.
While the bill allows under certain circumstances for revocation of a DCS license, most of the bill is more about filing reports. The bill does require a license applicant to disclose any agreement they may have with third parties to provide residential child care services. This does not mean nor does the bill provide that a license can be denied to an applicant who has a federal contract to provide services to UACs.
Neither of the Howell-White bills reflect any concern that UAC arrivals are part of a human smuggling operation. Rather, the bills work to accommodate the practice. Nor do the bills reflect any concern that U.S. HHS data from 2018 – 2019 shows that 79% of sponsors to whom UAC are released, were “without status” meaning that they were present in the U.S. illegally.
Bottom line in Tennessee on UAC arrivals is we will accommodate because as Howell stated, the “federal government says states have to”.