Ron Ramsey is making another run at convincing the Tennessee attorney general to defend a state-level legislative prerogative against interference by the federal government.
During the Tennessee General Assembly’s regular session earlier this year, Ramsey tried unsuccessfully to persuade state Attorney General Robert Cooper to join a number of other states in challenging elements of the federal health-care overhaul that Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration pushed through last winter.
On Friday, Ramsey — a Blountville Republican seeking to become the GOP’s pick next month to run against Democrat Mike McWherter in the November general election — urged Cooper to file a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Arizona’s new crackdown on illegal-immigrants, scheduled to take effect July 29.
Tennessee lawmakers approved two immigration-related bills earlier this year. One was a joint resolution in the House of Representatives congratulating Arizona for passing the new illegal immigration law. The other allows local law enforcement to verify a suspect or inmate’s citizenship status and report illegal aliens to the federal government.
The U.S. Justice Department announced a few weeks ago that it will challenge the Arizona law, which allows state and local police to check for citizenship status while enforcing other laws — including minor traffic violations — if there is a reasonable suspicion that an individual is illegally in the country.
Justice department lawyers say the federal government, not the states, is solely responsible for enforcing the country’s immigration policies. A U.S. attorney told a federal judge during a hearing on the matter in Phoenix Thursday that “regulation of immigration is unquestionably, exclusively, a federal power.”
Ramsey and other Tennessee politicians who say they support Arizona’s efforts argue that indeed it is the federal government’s job to control movement of foreigners into the United States. But the feds are failing to live up to that responsibility, they say, and therefore the states have been put in the position of having to take enforcement matters into their own hands.
“This is just another symptom of the disease that the federal government, not only in this case, is paying no attention to the citizens but its actually suing the citizens of the United States, suing Arizona for simply enforcing the law,” Ramsey told reporters during a press conference Friday morning.
Illegal immigration is as important to Tennessee as it is to Arizona, Ramsey added. Tennessee highways act as a corridor for those immigrants to pass through and opens the state up to potential drug trafficking, said the lieutenant governor.
“We rarely, if ever, use resources to participate in a trail court proceeding in another state,” Cooper wrote in an emailed statement. “Like most other Attorneys General, we are watching the case closely without actively participating, and we expect that the trial court in this matter will provide valuable legal analysis and insight.”