News Stories

Articles of interest

Who Rules Tennessee?

God warned his people about the danger of being ruled by a king, that is, one man. (1) Our country was founded on a division of powers to try and keep the same thing from happening. (2)

On March 11, 2020, Governor Bill Lee declared a State of Emergency with a lengthy executive order restricting life activities, including shutting down commerce, businesses and schools. (3, 4)

Tennessee statutes allow a state of emergency for 60 days in which time Gov. Lee can make temporary regulations called executive orders. (5) The state of emergency lasted 21 months.

During this time, the members of the General Assembly were unable to weigh in on any of these decisions. Instead, Gov. Lee ruled over covid restrictions through 62 executive orders.

The legislature is a coequal branch of government with exclusive responsiblity for making laws. (7) Several bills were submitted to limit a state of emergency and failed to pass. (8) We depend on our 133 representatives to juggle the many needs of Tennessee’s 6.9 million citizens.

The true definition of the word “emergency” is “an unforeseen occurrence requiring immediate attention.” A situation lasting 21 months is no longer an emergency.

Other states have more than 300 pending actions by their legislatures over governor’s powers. (9) (10) In January, its time for the Tennessee General Assembly to limit Gov. Lee’s ability to maintain a state of emergency. Thirty days is long enough. Call the offices of Sen. Ken Yager and Rep. Kelly Kiesling and let them know we depend upon them to ensure these limits are enacted.

CONTACT INFO:

Senator Ken Yager:  Email,  www.kenyager.com ; Phone (615) 741-1449

Rep. Kelly Kiesling: Email, rep.kelly.keisling@capitol.tn.gov
https://www.kellykeislingtn.com/contact
Phone (615) 741-6852

References

(1) Samuel 8:10-18

(2) https://www.ncsl.org/research/about-state-legislatures/separation-of-powers-an-overview.aspx

(3) Tennessee EO22 Lee_0.pdf

(4) https://www.lawserver.com/law/state/tennessee/tn-code/tennessee_code_58-2-110

(5) The duration of the protection provided by this subsection (l) shall not
exceed thirty (30) days, but may be extended by the governor by executive order
for an additional thirty (30) days, if required to ensure the provision of
emergency medical services in response to the catastrophic or major disaster.

(6) (HB9081, HB9029,
SP9024, HB 9072, HB1235, SB1169).

(7) https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/covid-cases-soar-gop-state-lawmakers-keep-fighting-limit-governors-n1247801

(8) https://www.etymonline.com/word/Emergency

(9) https://www.ncsl.org/research/about-state-legislatures/legislative-oversight-of-executive-orders.aspx

Legislative chambers in at least 47 states, Guam and Puerto Rico introduced or considered more than 300 bills or resolutions in 2021 that provide expressly for legislative involvement in and oversight of governors’ or executive actions during the Covid-19 pandemic or other emergencies. These actions include legislation that relates to legislatures’  ability to meet in special session. (For other legislation changing emergency management laws or other laws related to COVID-19, see NCSL’s COVID-19 database.)

(10) https://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/2021/05/opinion-legislators-must-rein-in-governors-unchecked-emergency-power.html

Hospitals should not keep families from loved ones

Medical personnel should not have the right to keep families away from their loved ones in the hospital.

In November, Tennessee law makers added a new statute in the special session bill (HB9076) forbidding separation from a family member while in the hospital during a covid emergency time. (1)(2)

However, Governor Lee wants to change this law in January, so it only applies to patients during end of life. (3)

No patient deserves to be separated from family even during a national or state emergency.

Hospitals are facing drastic shortages of personnel. Across the nation additional medical personnel are needed to fill 35% more jobs than last year.

In a time of crisis, when demands on skilled care are higher, patients need to have a family member present at all times. Particularly during covid, conflict and confusion can arise between families and doctors over treatment options. Families have a right to be present and involved in all decision-making. (4)

Further, isolation under any conditions threatens recovery. Stress, depression, loneliness and hopelessness can undermine treatment. Isolation is particularly dangerous for the elderly. (5)

Lawmakers in Nashville will be considering a change to the new law in January which currently requires hospitals to let a family member stay in the room. Our loved ones are depending on us to be their voice.

We have 30 days to call and write Gov. Lee, Sen. Ken Yager, Rep. Kelly Kiesling and Speaker Cameron Sexton, and tell them to keep this law as it is and allow one person to stay with a patient in the hospital.

CONTACT INFO:

Governor Bill Lee: Email, (615) 741-2001

Senator Ken Yager:  Email,  www.kenyager.com ; Phone (615) 741-1449

Speaker Cameron Sexton: Email Phone (615) 741-2343

REFERENCES:

(1) https://legiscan.com/TN/text/HB9077/2021; 14-6-104,CH 5, Sec 12b)

(2)https://www.tn.gov/governor/news/2021/11/12/gov–lee-s-office-announces-executive-actions-on-extraordinary-session-legislation.html

(3) https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?ref=search&v=306710587943186

(4) (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/hiring-crisis-health-care-job-postings-spike-35-george-anders/)

(5)(https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/social-isolation-loneliness-older-people-pose-health-risks)

TN Illegal Immigration Study Committee: Who’s On First?

As appeared in Tennessee Conservative News

By Anne Beckett [contributor to The Tennessee Conservative and founder of Tennessee Action Group]

The Tennessee Conservative broke a story of “migrants” coming into Chattanooga on April 9th, 2021.  On June 21, the Joint Study Committee on “Refugee” Issues was formed.  The committee was formed in response to an incident with “unaccompanied minors” that may be “illegal immigrants”,  and then was tasked by Lt. Gov. McNally and Speaker Sexton to evaluate “migrant” children.

Let’s break this down.

A migrant is, “someone who is moving from place to place (willingly) usually for economic reasons (looking for work).  It is a planned, temporary move (seasonal).

 A refugee is, “someone who has been forced to flee his/her home because of war, violence or persecution.” 

An immigrant is, “someone who leaves his/her home and moves to a foreign country with the intention of settling there.”

An illegal immigrant is one who by-passes the laws made for immigration. They have “not acquired documents before entering into a country,” and are not authorized.

So, who’s on first?  Or in other words, how does the committee intend to hit the ball when it’s not clear what or which (or who) they are to aim at? 

First, as it was rapidly ascertained, the minors coming into Chattanooga were indeed illegal immigrants.   Never migrants. (A new “softer” term is used now: UAC’s- unaccompanied alien children. This is another misnomer as “alien” refers to all non-citizens or non-nationals including tourists).

The committee tried to address the transport of these illegal immigrants in and through Tennessee.  And steadfastly encountered a total wall (pun intended): The federal “partners” refused to answer any inquiry into their various agencies from any of our law enforcement, governmental agencies or anyone from the Governor’s office.  So much for transparency. 

Now, when the federal government defies written law it is not conducting a legal operation. Why is Tennessee participating, which in fact is happening when it is not halted? 

Several participants echoed words similar to Governor Lee when he referenced a faith based mandate to help the poor and needy.  That is misdirected and a mischaracterization:  helping the poor is a high calling, but Jesus looks at the heart, not just the act itself, and the intent of this unregulated surge is under serious question. It is not transparent, and is, therefore, not without guile.

Rather, it is to obfuscate. Buyer beware.

Any argument about saving children should address how the situation came about in the first place.

How is anyone getting to the border?  A director of one of the refugee agencies reporting to the committee told a story of a 6-year old boy who made a “2,000 mile journey walking to the border” to unite with his mother who is also illegally in the U.S.

That is preposterous in every sense of the word.  Who walks 2,000 miles? Or even 200 miles? The northern third of Mexico is the almost the size of Texas, and at least as dry and hot. Without road services or facilities. Hello?

This wave of intruders is obviously being financed and furnished with buses and planes for transport to our southern border.  That evidence is rampant at the border. Our politicians can not claim ignorance because of a lack of coverage by mainstream media. They have access to and are responsible to know the truth.

Contrary to comments by Senator Todd Gardenhire including, “it does not matter how they (children) got here we are responsible for them when they are here,” we are not responsible for children who are sent ahead as bait and need to be returned to their homes and homeland.  

Otherwise, Tennessee is fully complicit as a state in the atrocities as noted by Representative Chris Todd at the last hearing when he said, ”we are facilitating illegal immigration from the southern border.”

And what is happening to children once they get here?  Senator Richard Briggs pointed out in the 2nd committee hearing, “this has all the hallmarks of trafficking: we do not know who is traveling (with the children), where they are going, or who is paying for it.”

Trafficking may be happening in the open as 30% of the “families” are not related.

Further, for the minor illegal immigrants that are being placed with sponsors or people who claim to be family,  a high percentage disappear

Second, while there are many hopes the southern border crisis will be temporary (migration), it has never been shown in any way to be about “war, violence or persecution” which is the case for refugees. 

Yet, a significant amount of time was spent on refugee organizations which are well regulated, process people who have applied for immigration,  includes an extended vetting process that typically takes 18 months and only admits a few hundred people a year according to all the reports given to the committee in the hearings. 

So how will the committee address this as a “refugee” issue?  

If these people are not refugees, and instead illegal immigrants (by any definition), then the federal government is not conducting a legal operation.  Why is Tennessee participating?

The committee is to be commended for digging in, that is, swinging at all the balls thrown at them, even if they do not know which one is in the strike zone. 

If the committee wants to recommend legislation, it may require a sweeping gesture so broad as to potentially render it useless.  

Governor Lee has agreed to receive 415 Afghan “refugees”  (We do not know what happened to the vetting process).  Governor DeSantis of Florida has a better idea. Perhaps Tennessee should adopt his policy and end the discussion. 

About the Author: Anne Beckett is the founder of Tennessee Action Group of Fentress County, a grassroots group dedicated to promoting the sovereignty of Tennessee and its citizens. 

Migrant Children in TN

On Monday November 15, 10AM CST, the Joint Study Committee on Refugee Issues had their fourth and last meeting livestream in the Cordell Hull Building in Nashville, TN.  They heard presentations from the Office of the Governor, Department of Childrens Services, Bethany Christian Services and Bridge Refugee Services.

The Governor’s office was represented by Valerie Yancey, Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs and Eric Mayo, a Legislative Liaison and also the Federal Relations Liaison for the Governor.  Mr. Mayo  gave a short report referencing only the Afghan refugees reported to be arriving to Tennessee.* 

“We do not know how many (other refugee) people are resettled in Tennessee,” Mayo said.

Governor Lee, along with Senators Haggerty and Blackburn, submitted a series of questions concerning the “status of the (Afghan) refugee process and their vetting” to Secretary Mayorca of Homeland Security. The federal government has not responded.

Representative Ryan Williams clarified there are 415 refugees who have been vetted for Tennessee, yet there are no statistics as to how many of these refugees are already in Tennessee, or when more are coming.

Senator Richard Briggs raised the issue of distinguishing among  illegal immigrants, refugees and legal immigrants.  The committee was formed to evaluate the influx of “migrant” children coming into the state of Tennessee, as well as the transparency from the Federal government and Tennessee’s fiscal

responsibility with migrant resettlement. 

Representative Chris Todd questioned the definition of “self sustaining” which is the stated goal of all refugee programs and refers to fiscal independence within 6 months.  However, Todd quoted a TennCare report stating 53% of 1500 refugees in 2010  were dependent on TennCare, a taxpayer funded program. 

Representative Dan Howell (Chair) then questioned whether the number of refugees will increase. Ms. Yancey admits the Governor’s office has tried repeatedly to contact various deparments within the federal government.  The response has been to refer them to another federal agency or department. No direct answers have been given on any inquiry to date.

It is a “blatant ignoring” of all inquiries from the federal government towards any state oversight, says Howell.

Drew Wright, Executive Director of Legislation and Policy at the Department of Children’s Services, briefly reviewed the adjudications and appeals over suspended licensing of the Baptiste Group in Chattanooga, a migrant children’s housing facility.  A secondary and separate judicial action,  “Notice of License Revocation,” was filed on September 17.  No further comments could be made due to continued litigation.  

Senator Dawn White (Chair) asked how many children were at the facility when it closed due to charges of child abuse by employees, and where did they go?  She was told no information is available, although DCS noted approximately 60 children were at the facility during their last inspection. 

Todd accused the federal government with relocation of the children. One child reportedly involved with the abuse charges against Baptiste was found to be back at his home in Guatemala days after the Baptiste facility was closed by DCS. 

Todd heatedly questioned whether Tennesse is compliant with the federal government in “trafficking” when DCS does not know, and ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement)  will not reveal, what is happening with migrant children who are reportedly being transported in and through Tennessee with no oversight.

Bethany Christian Services is one of only two agencies in Tennessee who receive or place migrant children. Amy Scott, Tennessee State Director for Bethany, reports her agency received approximately 100 migrant children since March 2020.  Bethany is not a residential housing facility. They placed less than 15% of the migrant children in Tennessee with either family members or vetted foster homes.

Since the committee is mandated to determine costs to Tennessee for refugee or illegal immigrants, Dana Anderson, Vice president of Refugee and Immigrant Children’s Services with Bethany, said they are reimbursed for care after submitting direct costs to the federal government.

Bethany admits to reuniting children with other illegals. Todd again charged all government and agencies involved with facilitating the illegal immigration currently experienced at the border.  Further, while Bethany and ORR have a prescribed vetting process for foster homes or family reuniting, Todd says it “reeks of impropriety” when children are abandoned as young as 6 years of age and then quizzed on their history and family connections in order to find placement.

Ms. Scott told Representative Williams that Bethany can only care for 24 children at any one time.  Williams quoted a figure of “3,678 UAC’s” (Unacompanied  Alien Children) in Tennessee.  If Bethany is assisting what amounts to only 4% of that number, where are the rest of the children? 

The committee then heard from Bridge Refugee Service Executive Director, Drocella Mugorewera.  She said  Bridge  has resettled 35 refugees in Knoxville and 25 refugees in Chattanooga the last 2 months.  She did not have the numbers for statewide.  She said Bridge receives refugees from several religious minstries who work directly with the federal government.

Representative Todd asked to read into the record a survey result received from a committee member not present (Griffey).  He noted most polls target 1,000 people and this poll had 2,322 respondents. An average of 97% responded “no” to a series of 7 questions on whether Tennessee should receive or aid illegal immigrants at taxpayers expense for housing, education or jobs.

Catholic Charities of East Tennessee was scheduled but did not appear before the committee.

The committee will meet with their legal department to finalize a summary report on each agency and department reporting to them since this ad hoc committee was formed in June

Anne Beckett is the founder of Tennessee Action Group of Fentress County, a grassroots group dedicated to promoting the sovereignty of Tennessee and its citizens.

End The Emergency

October 27, 2021

By Anne Beckett [contributor to The Tennessee Conservative] –

The emergency powers of Gov. Bill Lee need to be limited immediately. The extended state of emergency which now governs the State of Tennessee is unconscionable.  Further, it has rendered the General Assembly ineffective in their oath of office.

This General Assembly took an oath of office to support our constitutions, and therein the “life, liberty and property” of TN citizens. These rights have been violated by being limited, suppressed and removed.

Further, the General Assembly abdicated its duty to one man, Gov. Bill Lee, by allowing the continuation of 62 particular Executive Orders issued specifically under emergency powers over the last 18 months since March 2020.

The General Assembly has delegated its duties to one man whose duty it is to execute the laws. Not create them.

That is reserved exclusively as a legislative duty.

The Tennessee Code allows the Governor to function with emergency powers for a total of 60 days. He may renew the order.

The renewals have lasted 18 months. Enough already.

An “emergency” is defined as: “A serious situation or occurrence that happens unexpectedly and demands immediate action.“ If we really have an emergency, requiring “immediate action,” why would they not stay in continuous session to protect the state and citizens?

This August, legislators admitted our medical freedoms are being abused.  Yet, a House bill entered last January was tabled by the Senate in April, which would have at least ended the “emergency” along with making the executive orders moot.   After a year of shut down, they had no excuse to set it aside and not release us. Unconscionable.

Why are the General Assembly abdicating their responsibilities? Have they allowed themselves to be neutered?

Lawmakers around the country are challenging executive actions relating to the declared pandemic.

Why is our supermajority Republican legislation neglecting to do the same?

The people request the General Assembly to end the current emergency.   Additionally, they need to further constrain both the scope and duration of emergency powers of the Governor by requiring approval by the House and Senate before they become effective or extended.

This has been done in Pennsylvania, we can do it here.

If the General Assembly can not protect its citizens and uphold the TN Constitution and Codes now, how can they stand up to continuing federal encroachment and protect the sovereignty of Tennessee under the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution?

Click HERE to view all the bills currently up for consideration in this week’s Special Session.

Find your State Representative HERE.

Find your State Senator HERE.

(1) https://law.justia.com/codes/tennessee/2019/title-58/chapter-2/part-1/section-58-2-107/

(2) https://tennesseeconservativenews.com/tn-gop-critical-of-lees-handling-of-covid-by-executive-order/#comment-5999

(3) https://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB0869

(4) https://tennesseeconservativenews.com/has-governor-lee-politically-neutered-the-general-assembly/

(5) https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/wsmv.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/e0/5e0d6a7a-3131-11ec-96d1-fb9103d306c4/616f4fd54b557.pdf.pdf

(6) https://www.jurist.org/news/2021/05/pennsylvania-becomes-first-state-to-limit-governors-authority-under-emergency-disaster-declaration/

About the Author: Anne Beckett is the founder of the Tennessee Action Group in Fentress County.   Their first action was a drive to garner signatures for a Petition to Governor Lee to stop illegal immigration into Tennessee. You can find out more at www.tennactiongroup.org, or find them on Facebook.

Migrant Children

Is Anyone Really Concerned About The Migrant Children?

Published August 17, 2021

By Anne Beckett [contributor to The Tennessee Conservative] –

During several live Nashville hearings on the Joint Study on Refugees I listened to a particular Senator voice repeated concerns about migrant children. 

It sounded good. Just as it always does when the appeal is, “but think of the children!” 

That’s how we got the state lottery.  This claim is used to justify…well, a lot. And it sounds good. On the surface, anyway. 

So here’s a question:  Are minor migrant children being helped or harmed by the current surge at our southern border?

Here’s are the reasonings: 

“Well, they are here. Let’s take care of them.” 

“Either we let DCS manage it or they enter anyway”….(so are they being managed? Tracked?  Is that happening now?)

“The programs were started under Republican administrations…(so all republicans should support the current programs even with abuses?)

I would suggest this Senator next time he encounters burglars in his home say, ”Well, you are already here so lets have supper. And take what you want, I have plenty.” 

Here is what I am not hearing. 

“Do we know how solitary children are traveling alone over 1,000 miles to the border?” 

“Do we know who is transporting the children across the southern border of the U.S.?”

“Is there any tracking of children once they are placed with ‘families’ here in the U.S.?”  

At the last hearing, a 16 year old boy was known to have left a Chattanooga migrant children’s facility and was reported to be home in Guatemala 3 days later.  With no one knowing how?

And here also is what I am not hearing.  During the 2nd live hearing in Nashville on July 15th several legislators had been at a Human Trafficking conference the day before. They made comments about how this minor migrant surge had ALL THE HALLMARKS of human trafficking: 1- no one knows where the minors are coming from; 2- no one knows who is transporting them; 3- no one knows who is paying for it; 4- no one knows where they are going once in the U.S. .

It strongly appears there is a LOT we are not hearing. Nor is anyone asking these questions. 

It looks like too many people are not concerned with the source of the problem, as opposed to the results.  Maybe that should be the primary concern for all. 

About the Author:  Anne Beckett recently founded the Tennessee Action Group in Fentress County.   Their first action was a drive to sign a Petition to Governor Lee to stop illegal immigration into Tennessee. You can find out more at www.tennactiongroup.org, or find them on Facebook.

Illegal Immigration Investigation

In TN Continues With Study Committee

August 16, 2021 , Published August 16, 2021

By Anne Beckett [contributor to The Tennessee Conservative] –

On Thursday August 12, 12:30PM CST, the Joint Study Committee on Refugee Issues had a third monthly meeting in the Cordell Hull Building in Nashville, TN.

The committee continued its investigation into current immigration issues in TN with presentations by the Department of Children’s Services, the Office of Legal Services, Tennessee Office for Refugees/Catholic Charities, Professors of Law Glenn Reynolds of University of Tennessee Knoxville and William Gill of Duncan School of Law.

The Department of Children’s Services returned for an update on the Baptiste Group (the group that ran the migrant children’s home in Chattanooga).  

An investigation of abuse is still open and is primarily being handled by law enforcement.  DCS obtained a summary suspension of their state license and Baptiste Group is continuing to challenge the suspension repeatedly in court. The Attorney General’s office is representing DCS.

Senator Gardenhire queried DCS on how many migrant children from Baptiste Group home had been placed in Tennessee. He then revealed 17 children had been placed in Tennessee,  leading to the comment that it hardly justified building a new school.

Representative Chris Todd retorted with Department of Education FY 2021 statistics. 

He found for all minor immigrants of any status (refugees, unaccompanied minors) there were “over 3,400 ELS (English second language) teachers costing the taxpayers of Tennessee $226 Million this current year.”  He suggests the schools are already being built if that many specialized teachers are currently employed for non citizens. 

Representative Dan Howell (Chair) reminded the members of their original tasks which included finding not just how many minors have been placed in Tennessee but also how many have and continue to be brought in and then relocated to other states. 

One of the tasks concerns transparency of the Federal government regarding its relocation of unaccompanied migrant children to and through Tennessee.  

Representative Ryan Williams asked DCS if they were being notified of any placements that have already occurred by ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement, who as of May 2021 expanded to accompany responsibility of Unaccompanied Children) and they stated they were not.

Legislative attorney Rejul Bejoy reported on the Baptiste Group’s contracts with the Federal Government.  He attempted to contact the Administration for Children’s and Families Freedom of Information Act’s office to submit a FOIA request on the three awards Baptiste had received from HHS (Human & Health Services). These awards were to provide shelter for unaccompanied alien children. 

He asked for “the successful grant applications, conditions of the grants, documentation on the number of the children that had been moved in and out of the Chattanooga facility, and any documentation explaining why the Chattanooga facility was chosen to participate in the program.” He made multiple requests and did not receive any response.

Data from the HHS award data website revealed 3 Federal Government “Notice of Award” to Baptiste.  Bejoy noted the databases on public spending sites have issues with accuracy.  

Bejoy claims the awards were likely sought in late 2018 or early 2019.  The first award with HHS was April 2019. (Baptiste was incorporated in Tennessee in May of 2019 according to a filing with the TN Secretary of State, Division of Business Services)

With 3 awards, Baptiste Group received $42 million according to public databases.  However, revisions and updates on awards are counted as separate awards. 

Once adjustments were made from government databases, the total amount was reduced to $12.8 – $16.3 million from April 2019 until May 2021. (Baptist only received unaccompanied minors in November 2020 until closed by DCS in July 2021). 

Some of the award monies may have been used in other facilities.  According to Bejoy’s research, Baptiste has active corporate registrations in multiple states including Georgia, Tennessee, New Mexico and South Carolina, along with inactive registrations in other states including Florida, California and Louisiana. 

The last award was dated May 2021 for a facility in Memphis. The award was reduced to zero in July 2021 and Baptiste now shows no registered facility in Memphis.

Representative Howell (Chair) noted from Bejoy’s report that federal awards are to be used within a 12 month period. Baptiste group did not use their funds until after 12 months had passed. 

Representative Scotty Campbell stated it is “greatly upsetting” that taxpayers in the state and across the country are paying for services and who and what are receiving those services cannot be determined. The Federal Government is not being accountable to the people.

Catholic Charities and the Diocese of Nashville was represented by Rick Musacchio, Director of Communications.  

He clarified how this organization works with a very small group of people strictly screened and vetted over an 18-24 month period by the federal government before entering the U.S.. They place approximately 800-1,000 people a year. They have no part in the current southern border surge.  He also specifically stated the current immigrants do not meet the federal definition of refugees and are not part of the resettlement program. 

Senator Dawn White (Chair) asked why the federal government gave Catholic Charities the responsibility to oversee refugee resettlement in 1980 for the state of Tennessee.  

Louisa Saratora, State Refugee Coordinator from the Tennessee Office for Refugees said this program was very small for HHS and Catholic Charities had managed their portion of the program well.  

Representative Chris Todd asked if refugees were eligible for public assistance such as food stamps or TENNCare after  catholic charities said self-sufficiency is the end goal.  They admitted the refugees are eligible as any other citizen of the state.

The meeting closed after some general discussion on immigration law with two guest attorneys. 

Representative Bruce Griffey clarified definitions used by the United Nations for refugee– one who flees his/her country and is unwilling to return due to a well founded fear based on a prosecution for reasons of race or religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or a political opinion); and asylee– one who is in a new country and unable or unwilling to return (to their country of origin). 

As stated by Saratora, it is only with a final determination of status that refugee services are made available under ORR’s programs.  

Griffey pressed to clarify whether Catholic Charities participates with Unaccompanied Children (a program of ORR), and was assured they do not. 

Upon questioning, Representative Todd brought out how extensive the regulations and accountability is in this particular refugee established ORR program, which Catholic Charities has been involved in to some degree for “50-60 years”.

Dr. Glenn Reynolds, Professor of law at University of Tennessee was asked to talk about “what powers the state has in regards to refugee settlement facilities”.  He admits federal power over immigration is absolute, and at the same time with less supervision. The courts have called it “uniquely unrestrained”. 

Dr. Reynolds focuses on Constitutional law. He reaffirms the states cannot regulate immigration, but can regulate licensing for facilities,  even if operating under a federal grant or contract.  

Recently in California the federal courts upheld cases to ban detention centers and have the state attorney general inspect the facilities for conditions.

He stated that the legislature can make laws regarding immigration as long as they do not target the Federal Government or discriminate against businesses that contract with them. 

However, after Representative Griffey asked what the legislature could do to inhibit entities that support illegal immigration activity Dr. Reynolds suggested taxing them. 

William Gill teaches immigration law and volunteers as an immigration attorney for juveniles with Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, a separate organization which is accredited by the Department of Justice.  

Attorney Gill explained the lengthy and complicated means by which  minors are represented, how the courts have a rate of 90% approval for claims of abuse, while successful claims for adults are much lower. 

Representative Williams requested the committee Chair have representatives from Catholic Charities appear to explain the differences between their various organizations of the same name. 

Chairman Howell entered 5 incident reports of minors coming into Tennessee by air flights.  At the previous hearing only one entry was known.

A date will be set for one more hearing.

The Study Committee on Refugee Issues includes the following Senators and Representatives: 

Senate Members – 

SENATOR DAWN WHITE (CHAIR) – (R) – (615) 741-6853 – sen.dawn.white@capitol.tn.gov 

SENATOR RICHARD BRIGGS – (R) – (615) 741-1766 – sen.richard.briggs@capitol.tn.gov 

SENATOR TODD GARDENHIRE – (R) – (615) 741-6682 – sen.todd.gardenhire@capitol.tn.gov 

SENATOR ED JACKSON – (R) – (615) 741-1810 – sen.ed.jackson@capitol.tn.gov 

SENATOR BO WATSON – (R) – (615) 741-3227 – sen.bo.watson@capitol.tn.gov 

House Members – 

REPRESENTATIVE DAN HOWELL (CHAIR) – (R) – (615) 741-7799 –rep.dan.howell@capitol.tn.gov 

REPRESENTATIVE SCOTTY CAMPBELL – (R) – (615) 741-2050 – rep.scotty.campbell@capitol.tn.gov 

REPRESENTATIVE BRUCE GRIFFEY – (R) – (615) 741-6804 – rep.bruce.griffey@capitol.tn.gov 

REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS TODD – (R) – (615) 741-7475 – rep.chris.todd@capitol.tn.gov 

REPRESENTATIVE RYAN WILLIAMS – (R) – (615) 741-1875 – rep.ryan.williams@capitol.tn.gov 

Study Committee Seeks Answers

To Illegal Immigration In TN

July 15, 2021 , Published July 15, 2021

By Anne Beckett [founder of The Tennessee Action Group and contributor to The Tennessee Conservative] –

On Tuesday July 13, 10AM CST, the Joint Study Committee on Refugee Issues met live for the second time in the Cordell Hull Building in Nashville, TN.  They heard presentations from the Governor’s office, Department of Children’s Services and the Fiscal Review Committee.

Representative Bruce Griffey stated concerns over the federal government dispersing all the minors from the Baptiste facility in Chattanooga after allegations of abuse but before charges could be filed and allow law enforcement to conduct an investigation with the minor. 

He made a charge saying, “I’m putting the federal government on notice today, if they do not cooperate and bring back that victim so this perpetrator faces justice under Tennessee law, I think that’s unconscionable and extremely telling with who we are dealing.”

Brandon Gibson, Chief Operating Officer and Brent Easley, Director of Legislation spoke for Governor Bill Lee’s office.

Easley revealed the Governor’s office has received 1,064 contacts since May 2021 about this issue and is deeply concerned. 

Gibson presented a timeline starting May 20, 2021 when their office was first alerted to media reports of bus and plane deportation of migrant minors in Chattanooga.

Local law enforcement  “reached out to their federal partners” with no response. 

She stated the only response was seen during a televised press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: “These children have been traveling through Tennessee, as you know geographically it’s right in a place where there are a lots of states around it, so it’s a place where some flights have gone through as some children are moving to other destinations.”  

Gibson made several attempts at contact with Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and Health and Human Services (HHS) with Jeff Long, Commissioner of Safety.  In response, they were repeatedly referred to the policies found on HHS website.

Senator Richard Briggs spoke with ORR and HHS at a conference on human trafficking and asked about a report of migrant child transport reported in Knoxville at that time. Both ORR and HHS stated they knew nothing about it. Various committee members recognized there is little to no oversight and human trafficking is in serious question here.

Senator Todd Gardenhire then gave the tail number (N481US) he obtained from Tennessee Air National Guard on the plane that landed in Chattanooga on May 20th . He requested the Governor’s office investigate its full air trafficking report for that day.

Representative Ryan Williams asked if the Governor’s office had been contacted previously at any time concerning facilities for minors. Gibson revealed the National Guard had made contact earlier in the year with Governor Lee’s office and she informed them Tennessee does not have any facilities at all for these purposes.

Representative Chris Todd attempted to find out who sponsored the bus and planes transporting minors but HHS would only say a “3rd party.” 

Using federal sources, which he called “squishy” because of the way they count, he said 1775 minors have been placed this year in Tennessee.  With 719 in Davidson county alone, he notes the added burden on the school system.

Further, the General Assembly just received the Governor’s budget which both they and citizens need to “know what impact state dollars are spent appropriately and on things (the citizens) choose to spend on as opposed forced upon us.”

Todd added, “only 7 states have received more alien children than Tennessee. There is a reason. I don’t know what it is, (but) part of the charge is to find it out.”

Jennifer Nichols, Commissioner of Department of Children’s Services, spoke on regulations for residential facilities.

Of the 29 in Tennessee, only Baptiste in Chattanooga, Tennessee contracts solely with federal agencies. It was closed in June due to charges of abuse. 

Mark Anderson, Director of Licensing with DCS, revealed he made an unannounced visit to the facility June 3 and saw only male residents, appearing to be ages 12-17.  The minor involved in alleged abuse left the facility and was reported to be back home in Guatemala. 

Representative Dan Howell’s legal team cross-checked federal sites for contract and grant moneys concerning the Baptiste facility in Chattanooga.  They were licensed in April of 2019, began receiving minors in November 2020 and were shut down in June 2021. Since April 2019, they received $39.03M from HHS and $12.2M from ORR.

Krista Lee Carsner, Executive Director Fiscal Review Committee, attempted to ascertain the monetary burden to Tennessee with TennCare. She said “the tracking data is not there.”  The closest average over 5 years of FY 2015-1019 puts an annual average at $9.3M. 

Senator Bo Watson distinguished between child and youth using pediatric definitions.  A minor “child” is different than the observed age of these immigrant minors.  They are actually “youth” which by pediatric definition is classified as adolescents from 12-17 years. This is a “completely different perspective when there is an overabundance of older youth, and, older male youth” (68%). 

U.S. Senator Marsha Backburn spoke briefly at the start of the meeting, calling for federal transparency in a bill submitted with Senator Bill Hagerty, and is attempting to investigate requirements for housing facilities Health and Human Services (HHS) is using for unaccompanied minor immigrants.

Senator Bill Hagerty was scheduled to speak but had engagement conflicts.

Next meeting will be August 12th at 12:30PM CST.

The Study Committee on Refugee Issues includes the following Senators and Representatives: 

Senate Members – 

SENATOR DAWN WHITE (CHAIR) – (R) – (615) 741-6853 – sen.dawn.white@capitol.tn.gov 

SENATOR RICHARD BRIGGS – (R) – (615) 741-1766 – sen.richard.briggs@capitol.tn.gov 

SENATOR TODD GARDENHIRE – (R) – (615) 741-6682 – sen.todd.gardenhire@capitol.tn.gov 

SENATOR ED JACKSON – (R) – (615) 741-1810 – sen.ed.jackson@capitol.tn.gov 

SENATOR BO WATSON – (R) – (615) 741-3227 – sen.bo.watson@capitol.tn.gov 

House Members – 

REPRESENTATIVE DAN HOWELL (CHAIR) – (R) – (615) 741-7799 –rep.dan.howell@capitol.tn.gov 

REPRESENTATIVE SCOTTY CAMPBELL – (R) – (615) 741-2050 – rep.scotty.campbell@capitol.tn.gov 

REPRESENTATIVE BRUCE GRIFFEY – (R) – (615) 741-6804 – rep.bruce.griffey@capitol.tn.gov 

REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS TODD – (R) – (615) 741-7475 – rep.chris.todd@capitol.tn.gov 

REPRESENTATIVE RYAN WILLIAMS – (R) – (615) 741-1875 – rep.ryan.williams@capitol.tn.gov 

Scroll to top