Gov. Bill Lee parts with state legislature on refugee decision

Tennessee News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Governor Bill Lee went against the legislative grain Wednesday by saying Tennessee will provide “safe harbor” to those “fleeing religious persecution.”

It was his long-awaited decision on what has been called “refugee resettlement.”

One of those against the decision not to “opt-out” of the federal resettlement program is House Speaker Cameron Sexton.

In his legislative office, the speaker said he did not hear from the governor beforehand about the refugee resettlement decision.

“We have not had a conversation with Governor Lee yet,” said the Speaker around noon Wednesday. “He has not reached out to me or the Lieutenant Governor that I am aware of at this point. We got a call from staff this morning.”

Governor Bill Lee did send a letter to the two speakers.

A key part of it read; “The refugee population in Tennessee is small and I believe our consent to cooperate and consult with the Trump Administration to provide a safe harbor for those who are fleeing religious persecution and violent conflict is the right decision.”

A Lee Administration member estimates the number of refugees resettled in Tennessee will be about 200-250 and they were described as Christians.

“The House would not have agreed with this decision,” added the speaker. “So we are looking at it. We think (governor) should have opted out. If you look at the joint statement from the two speakers it says where the General Assembly really is.”

That joint statement said in part; “In 2016, the General Assembly adopted a resolution expressing the desire of our citizens to file a federal lawsuit to halt refugee resettlement in Tennessee. Our opinion has not changed on this issue.”

The governor did receive plaudits from several refugee rights groups and Nashville Republican Senator Steve Dickerson

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