NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — After saying he received a call Monday from federal officials that an “unspecified” number of migrants from a Louisiana detention facility could be taken to Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee says he wants the plan to be reversed and the Tennessee Attorney General to look into legal options.
“We’ve been informed by ICE that they plan to release single adult detainees into Tennessee while they await court proceedings. This is irresponsible and a threat to the safety of Tennesseans,” Lee said in a statement. “Placing the burden on states is not a solution, and we should not bear the brunt of the federal government’s failures.”
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Sen. Bill Hagerty and Republican state lawmakers agree with Lee and say this plan to bring some asylum seekers to the Volunteer State endangers Tennesseans.
“President Biden has done everything to collapse our borders and make America less safe, and now, he blames everyone but himself, even while his colleagues blame the president. Illegal immigrants shouldn’t be rewarded for breaking the law,” Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton tweeted.
The Tennessee Immigration and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) says they also got a call from federal officials to ask if they were able to bring together a group of volunteers and community members to help migrants if they were to be brought to Tennessee.
“There are so many people in Tennessee who are ready and willing to welcome,” said Judith Clerjeune, Campaigns and Advocacy Director at TIRRC. “There are so many churches who have offered to provide shelter, other organizations who have offered to provide food or healthcare needs.”
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In addition to saying that seeking asylum is legal in the United States, Clerjeune says Tennessee Republican leaders’ reactions to this news are political in nature and ignore the humanity of these migrants.
“Choosing fear, choosing hate over treating people with dignity and compassion. It is beyond shameful,” she said.
Clerjeune explained typically these asylum seekers only stay a couple of days in Tennessee as they continue on their journey to be reunited with family or connect to a sponsor while they await their hearing in front of an immigration judge.
In a statement, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said that no noncitizens have been taken to Tennessee at this time.
“Noncitizens apprehended and determined to need custodial supervision are placed in detention facilities and those released from secure custody are part of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO),” an ICE spokesperson said. “ERO officers weigh a variety of factors when making general custody determinations, including criminal record, immigration history, community ties, flight risk, and whether the individual poses a potential threat to public safety.”
According to the ICE, detention is not a punishment but a place where the agency can secure immigrants as they await immigration proceedings or are taken out of the United States.
Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti said his team is looking into possible next steps.
“We are exploring all options. The lack of appropriate notice and the lack of transparency by both the federal government and its local partners means we must work quickly, but we are committed to ensuring the safety of Tennessee’s citizens.”