Tennessee sues the federal government over refugee resettlement

If you were hoping that the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House would create more jobs, have no fear. At least in the legal services sector the job market must be booming because there are people filing lawsuits right and left these days. Usually it’s some group of Democrats or SJW activists rushing to court over this or that thing the President Trump has done, but in Tennessee a very different court case has emerged. The Volunteer State has become the first in the nation to bring suit against the federal government over the mandated resettlement of refugees in their communities based on an infrequently invoked Constitutional principle. The two things that really make this interesting are the person named in the suit and the grounds upon which it’s being brought. The highest level official being named is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the case is based on the 10th Amendment. (The Tennessean)

Tennessee became the first state in the nation on Monday to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement on the grounds of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of several state lawmakers Monday morning in the western district of Tennessee, alleges that the federal government has violated the 10th Amendment, which says the federal government possesses only the powers delegated to it by the U.S. Constitution and that all other powers are reserved for the states.

The charge that the federal government is not complying with the Refugee Act of 1980, based on the 10th Amendment, makes Tennessee’s lawsuit the first of its kind. Other states have sued the federal government over refugee resettlement but on different legal grounds.

Taken in reverse order, of the two interesting twists in this case the biggest one for me is the fact that they are summoning up the 10th Amendment in their claim. When was the last time you saw that successfully argued? We’ve discussed here in the past the fact that the final item on the Bill of Rights is often treated in the courts as some sort of redheaded stepchild which nobody really wants to talk about. The power of the federal government has grown exponentially over the centuries and that growth has been fully aided and abetted by the courts. In theory, the ability of the federal government to do many, many things which it does should have been effectively stymied, but such ideas are considered “quaint” in the modern era.

It also might seem a bit odd at first glance to see Rex Tillerson’s name on the suit. After all, he was appointed by Donald Trump and neither of them sound like sort of people who are eagerly looking forward to loading up trucks full of people from foreign lands and dumping them on the heads of the various states against their will. But in reality, who was Tennessee supposed to sue if not the State Department? I suppose that begs the question of whether or not this is simply another holdover policy from the Obama administration which Trump is probably not a fan of but simply hasn’t gotten around to addressing yet. It seems to me that the complaint being raised by Tennessee could be effectively resolved and dismissed with little more than a press conference and a quick signing ceremony for yet another Executive Order in the Oval Office. Even if the government has the “authority” to send refugees to any of the states despite their disagreement, it doesn’t mean that they have to. President Trump could cut off the flow of refugees to Tennessee with little more than a wave of his hand.

But will he? As the article notes, there are other states waiting in line who have raised similar complaints already. To accommodate Tennessee may mean trimming down the list of destinations for refugees to a relatively small group of blue states. Hey, wait a minute… Why am I arguing against that? Now that I come to say it, it doesn’t really sound like all that bad of a plan.