ACLU-TN and TIRRC Statements on Sixth Circuit’s Dismissal of Tennessee’s Anti-Refugee Lawsuit

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
July 24, 2019 4:30 pm

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JACKSON, Tenn. — The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals today dismissed Tennessee legislators’ lawsuit intended to block refugee resettlement in the state due to lack of standing.

In March 2018, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit on multiple grounds, including the Tennessee General Assembly’s lack of standing to bring the lawsuit and the state’s failure to show that refugee resettlement in Tennessee violates the U.S. Constitution. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision, stating that the Tennessee General Assembly had not alleged an injury that would give it standing.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Tennessee had previously filed a motion to intervene in the state’s lawsuit in order to defend refugee resettlement in Tennessee. The ACLU filed this motion on behalf of groups serving Tennessee refugees, including the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Bridge Refugee Services Inc., and the Nashville International Center for Empowerment. The groups also filed legal arguments explaining why the Tennessee General Assembly’s lawsuit should be thrown out. The federal district court ruled that the ACLU’s motion to intervene was rendered moot by its dismissal of the state’s lawsuit.

Organizational leaders had the following reactions to today’s dismissal:

Hedy Weinberg, executive director, ACLU of Tennessee

“We applaud the Sixth Circuit’s decision, which reinforces that this lawsuit should never have been brought in the first place. As the district court judge already pointed out, the state has failed to show that refugee resettlement in Tennessee is unconstitutional.

What’s more, as a state and as a nation, we value fair treatment of refugees and compassion toward those in need. Our country has a long tradition of honoring these values through our asylum system. There is nothing more American than allowing people the opportunity to seek safety and to work and care for their families. Today’s decision ensures that Tennessee will continue to uphold these important values.

We will continue to remain vigilant and ready to act against politicians’ attempts to undermine refugee resettlement in our country.”

Lisa Sherman Nikolaus, policy director, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition

“Choosing cheap political points over the sound advice of the attorney general, the Tennessee General Assembly used this litigation to stoke fear and division instead of working to solve real problems facing their communities. After two embarrassing defeats in the courts, the legislature must finally put this hateful lawsuit to rest and put our taxpayer resources to better use, such as funding public schools and increasing access to healthcare.

Throughout the debate around the lawsuit, Tennesseans have shown up to defend the lifesaving work of refugee resettlement. It is clear that our communities are ready and willing to welcome those seeking safety and protection in our country and will reject efforts by lawmakers to divide us.”

The Sixth Circuit’s opinion can be found here:

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