What Comes First? Bill Lee’s Personal Refugee Agenda or the Suffering of Tennessean’s Health & Ability to Make a Living?

For Tennesseans personally impacted by the deadly and destructive March tornadoes and/or the deadly and devastating COVID-19 crisis, there is no question about what need to be Bill Lee’s priorities.

Bill Lee needs to retract his consent to continue bringing refugees to Tennessee. In fact, he shouldn’t hesitate to write that letter today to his good buddy Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Lee’s personal agenda for refugee resettlement has no proper place in any plan to help restore Tennesseans impacted by the tornadoes and COVID-19.

Helping Tennesseans recover and get back on their feet comes first. This includes restoring economic vibrancy to the state’s economy. It includes doing everything in our state’s power to prevent the 15 economically distressed counties which “rank among the 10 percent most economically distressed counties in the nation,” from slipping further away from us.

At last count, almost 250,000 Tennesseans have filed unemployment claims but with Lee extending the shutdown for several more weeks, don’t be surprised if the number of unemployed needing help increases.

So, will more people in Tennessee now qualify for TennCare in addition to the working poor on whose behalf the liberals and progressives have been pushing Medicaid expansion? Did Lee’s Medicaid block grant plan account for these contingencies?

Small businesses have been decimated by the COVID shutdown. And even larger businesses have laid off employees. How long will it take for them to gear back up and what happens to the people who are forced to wait or whose job is eliminated?

Regardless of what Lee and company tell us about refugees, the fact remains that they use cash welfare and TennCare as soon as they arrive. They also compete for jobs that out-of-work Tennesseans are willing and need to take.

This was the very real situation in 2009, documented by the Wall Street Journal in Job Fight: Immigrants vs. Locals, about what happened at the Tyson’s plant in Shelbyville.

Economic desperation during the 2007 – 2009 recession didn’t stop either Bush or Obama from importing large numbers of refugees just like the ones lining up in Shelbyville to compete with local residents who needed those jobs. Burmese refugees from Nashville, Florida and Idaho were lined up for the Tyson jobs, along with “several vanloads of Asian and African applicants from Nashville” brought there by “churches and refugee resettlement agencies.”

During these recession years, 3,300 refugees were resettled in Tennessee, not including refugees who moved into Tennessee from other states. The largest groups being initially resettled in Tennessee during this time were 807 Burmese, 575 Iraqis, 463 Burundis, 452 Somalis and 393 Bhutanese.

The data that is reported does not reflect the increase in numbers due to chain migration when resettled refugees apply to bring family members to join them.

Any current plan for Tennessee’s economic recovery should also account for the thriving illegal alien population which groups like TIRRC (TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition) also call “refugees” in a deliberate effort to confuse the public.

A coalition of groups including TIRRC, Stand Up Nashville, The Equity Alliance, Memphis For All, Tennessee Justice Center, Service Employees International Union Local 205, A Better Balance, Chattanooga Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO, Central Labor Council of Memphis and West TN, AFL-CIO, Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle TN, AFL-CIO, Chattanooga in Action for Love, Equality and Benevolence (CALEB), Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH), Southeast Laborers’ District Council, Workers Interfaith Network and Knoxville City Council Movement…

basically the state’s most left-leaning groups, sent a letter to the Governor requesting what amounts to the Pelosi/Schumer plan to steal the 2020 election among other things, also included a request for Lee to “use emergency powers to suspend specific state laws, including those that limit localities from requiring employers to provide paid sick days and repeal anti-sanctuary cities measures to ensure immigrants feel safe getting medical treatment.” 

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Tennessee, there were justifiable grounds for Governor Lee to retract his state-wide consent for refugee resettlement.

Chief among the reasons was the fact that he did not comply with the directives of President Trump’s Executive Order. Instead, Bill Lee without consulting the state legislature or any county leadership, forced his personal agenda for resettling refugees on the entire state. At the First Tuesday meeting the Governor claimed that counties defer to the state’s consent for refugee resettlement. One attendee described Lee’s version as “the counties are at the mercy of the state.”

Even without Lee’s help, Nashville and Knoxville are already ranked in the top 100 cities for refugee resettlement per capita. Three days before the Governor “urged” schools to close, federal refugee contractor Bridge Refugee Services announced that they were “welcoming several new refugees families to Knoxville this month.” The State Department’s refugee resettlement reporting site, however, shows that 13 refugees resettled Nashville and 1 in Chattanooga since the date of Bridge’s announcement.

The country’s listed in the State Department report for refugees who resettled in Tennessee since March 13, come from countries “with confirmed coronavirus infections.” Too bad, Tennesseans.


According to the operative federal documents, Bill Lee’s consent for refugee resettlement was only supposed to be for June 1, 2020 through the end of the federal fiscal year, which is September 30, 2020. But Bill Lee made his consent valid for a year from December 18, 2019, the date of his consent letter to Mike Pompeo.

Now’s the time for the Governor to show Tennesseans in no uncertain terms that he puts their physical, psychological, and economic health first. Now’s the time for the Governor to live up to his ethical duties to the citizens of the state he was elected to lead.

Contact Bill Lee and tell him to retract his consent – (615) 741-2001 or email him.

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