NASHVILLE, Tennessee — The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear a failed challenge of the federal refugee resettlement program by Tennessee’s Republican-led Legislature.
The court filed its denial earlier this week, letting a lower court ruling stand.
The Legislature asked the court to consider its challenge, which claimed the state shouldn’t be forced to spend money on Medicaid and other services for refugees.
The petition claimed lower courts wrongly ruled the Legislature lacks legal standing in the case.
The filing follows Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s decision in January to continue resettling refugees after President Donald Trump’s administration offered the option for states and local governments to stop. A court has blocked that option.
Lee’s decision spurred some Republican state lawmakers to file bills to limit his authority on refugees, but those didn’t pass amid a reduced scope of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tennessee stopped participating in the refugee program in 2008.
Catholic Charities of Tennessee administers a program under a law that says if a state withdraws, the federal government can pick a nonprofit to administer federal money for cash and medical assistance and social services to eligible refugees.
More than 2,000 refugees resettled in Tennessee during the 2016 budget year, then 478 in 2018 under Trump. The number hit 692 in 2019 and 172 through nine months of the 2020 fiscal year.
Attorney General Herbert Slatery declined lawmakers’ request to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement. Former Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, refused to sign a resolution in 2016 that passed in the General Assembly demanding the lawsuit. It took effect without his signature.
Lawmakers have used pro bono services from a third-party legal outfit.