Tennessee shouldn't consent to refugee resettlements
Read the text of Smith's resolution here.
On Tuesday, January 21, I will be introducing a resolution at 5 p.m. on the third floor of the Bedford County Courthouse. This resolution is a resolution of No Consent to Refugee Resettlement in Bedford County, Tennessee.
As many of you have read over the past few weeks, Governor Bill Lee has announced his consent to initial refugee resettlement in Tennessee in response to Executive Order 13888 issued by President Donald J. Trump on September 26, 2019. This gives states and counties the ability to choose whether or not they wanted to accept new refugees. Unfortunately, our Governor did not collaborate with the General Assembly on this; much less his more rural constituents like those of us in Bedford County.
I believe the Governor has a good heart and good intentions but his actions are very naive considering the federal government has proven time and time again that it cannot vet these persons. Even as I write this, Tennessee is currently in a refugee resettlement lawsuit against the federal government for this very program.
His actions are incongruent with that pending lawsuit and have possibly hurt its chances of success. I fear the Governor has overreached his constitutional authority. Also as the Chairman of the Republican Party in Bedford County, our executive committee has voted unanimously to send a letter that will be hand-delivered to the Governor expressing our disappointment and disapproval of his actions.
As citizens of Bedford County, I am sure many of you have seen our community change over the past several years. A large number of constituents have expressed to me how parts of our community resemble the Third World. They cannot believe what has happened here and it shows, whether we want to accept the truth or not. We have been in denial as a community and have lacked the leadership to at least discuss the problem, I suppose, in fear of being called racist. We have seen a huge influx of illegal immigrants that have affected our wages, jobs and schools.
However, there isn't much we can do about it considering the Federal Government's epic failure concerning our immigration policies. Simply put our Federal immigration system is broken and it's taking its toll on our community, especially fiscally. Just last year I tried to pass a Senior Citizen Tax Freeze that would have helped many of our vulnerable seniors on fixed incomes. After much deliberation it was deemed too expensive at a cost of around $85,000 per year. Additionally, the County Commission voted to increase taxes to help fund new schools and a justice center. The County Commission raised fees and taxes at every opportunity to help with "budget shortfalls" even in this booming Trump economy. For the record, as a Bedford County Commissioner, I personally voted against any and all tax increases.
In closing, I believe in helping and resettling refugees, especially those that have been negatively affected in the Middle East by wars we have participated in. I believe that if you come to this country legally you are an American with all the rights afforded to you under the Constitution. I also believe we need a conservative amount of immigrants skilled and unskilled to fill jobs in our economy. However, Tennessee and Bedford County has done its fair share helping those from around the world. We are swamped within our schools with illegal immigrants to the point that there is extreme difficulty finding and funding teachers to work in our county, plus we are in dire need of English to Spanish translators. Some of our schools are over 50% illegal immigrants. This situation has been deemed a crisis level event by educators that have reached out to me personally who I will not name.
My question to you, as the voter and citizen, is how do we take care of new additional refugees that need the help and financial assistance they deserve when our community can hardly take care of the citizens and non-citizens we currently serve? We can no longer turn a blind eye to this huge crisis and Governor Bill Lee has just made our job much harder!
I encourage you to attend the Bedford County Committee Meeting where you can express your thoughts around this issue. Meeting to be held on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, at the Courthouse, 3rd floor.
--Brent Smith is a Bedford County Commissioner, representing the 1st District, and chairman of Bedford County Republican Party.