Judge dismisses Tennessee lawsuit over refugee resettlement

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A judge on Monday dismissed the state of Tennessee’s lawsuit against the federal government over the refugee resettlement program, dealing a loss to Republican legislative leaders who brought the challenge.

The Tennessee General Assembly filed the lawsuit in March 2017, arguing the refugee program is forcing the state to spend money on additional services, including health care and education.

In his dismissal order Monday, U.S. District Judge S. Thomas Anderson said it’s speculative for Tennessee to contend that it might lose $7 billion annually in federal Medicaid money if it refuses to spend state money on refugee services through Medicaid. The case includes no allegation that the federal government has made a threat to withhold the money, the judge added.

“The injury that Plaintiffs claim, i.e., loss of all federal Medicaid funding, has not occurred and may never occur,” Anderson wrote.

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Bridge Refugee Services and the Nashville International Center for Empowerment had asked the judge to dismiss the case. The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee filed the motion for them.

On Tuesday, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition plans to bring more than 40 refugees to the Capitol complex to visit with lawmakers and share their stories.

“The baseless and cruel attacks on refugee resettlement have galvanized the refugee community to organize and defend the program,” the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition said in a news release.

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery declined to file the lawsuit on behalf of legislators, so the suit was filed for free by the Thomas More law firm, which takes up conservative causes in courts.

In 2016, Gov. Bill Haslam refused to sign a resolution that passed in the General Assembly demanding the lawsuit. It took effect without his signature.

After the court’s ruling, Tennessee Senate Speaker Randy McNally said lawmakers are discussing appeal options with their attorneys.

“I am obviously dismayed by this decision. The federal government has failed the states and the people on the refugee issue for too long,” McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican, said in a statement.

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