By Meg Dickens
The news of Governor Bill Lee’s decision to continue allowing refugees into Tennessee did not go unnoticed during a county commission meeting.
Now the Johnson County Commission is making a statement with its Resolution of No Consent to Refugee Settlement. The resolution passed unanimously.
“Our president is trying to lower that number of folks that are coming into our country,” said County Mayor Mike Taylor. “And, in doing that, we had a conversation about rolling back the constitution and tenth amendment and putting that back into the states’ rights.”
President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13888 in September of 2019. Among other things, this allows state and local governments to have a say on whether refugees can move to their areas. Many Tennesseans are reportedly unhappy with Governor Lee’s decision and demand the right to choose. Some believe that Governor Lee usurped Tennessean rights.
Comments about refugees came up while commissioners discussed becoming a Second Amendment Sanctuary county last month. This line of thought, both in the December 19 and the January 16 meetings brought up questions on legalities and possible changes refugees could cause. Locals worried that refugees would overrule local culture and values. During the discussion, County Attorney Perry Stout mentioned taking the case to federal court if needed.
“Right now, we have veterans in need of housing, medical care, food, and those kinds of things,” said Taylor as he presented the resolution. “What the resolution we are sending to the governor says is that, as a community, we would like to have a say before you just send refugees to our county. We would like to follow the law that our president has set up.”
Despite all of the controversy, personal choice on refugee placement is now on hold because of U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte. Messitte blocked President Trump’s decision on January 15 with a HAIS order suing both President Trump and several members of his cabinet.
Messitte claims that the executive order violates the Refugee Act of 1980. It works as a temporary injunction stopping Executive Order 13888 for the time being. What will happen regarding Johnson County is unknown at this time, but the community, led by its Mayor, has let its opinion be known.