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Ketron: Dems Counting Illegal Immigrants to Pad Claims of Voter Disenfranchisement

Press Release from the Senate Republican Caucus, Oct. 31, 2011:

Democrat statistics include illegal aliens among what they refer to as “disenfranchised” voters without photo IDs

(NASHVILLE, TN), October 31, 2011 — Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) said today that numbers provided by the Senate Democrat Caucus count illegal aliens and prisoners who have lost their voting rights among the number of what they term as possible “disenfranchised” voters under Tennessee’s new photo ID law. The formula, which Democrats released to certain media outlets last week, uses the 2010 U.S. Census to estimate how many voters do not have a photo ID.

“The census is a count of everyone residing in the United States,” says Census information posted on the U.S. Census website. “So even if you are not a U.S. citizen but you live and sleep in the U.S. most of the year, you will be counted in the census.” In addition, the Census count includes foreign students and those who are incarcerated in correctional facilities and who may have lost their voting rights if convicted of certain crimes.

Utilizing the Census as their source, the Democratic Caucus formula claimed that Tennessee has 689,301 people of voting age who don’t have a driver’s license or photo on their driver’s license.

“The whole reason for the law was to ensure that only eligible citizens vote in an election in Tennessee,” said Chairman Ketron. “We had tried to determine the criteria the Democrats used to make that their calculation. We knew the number was wrong but until we saw their data did not know that they included ineligible voters and others who already have authorized identification cards until it was released to the media. Now we understand why the statistics were so grossly out of line.”

“We don’t know whether their calculations are designed to sensationalize the number of people who may truly need photo identification or if they believe we should really open up our election process to illegal aliens. I would hope not — but both of these scenarios are concerning in protecting the integrity of elections in Tennessee. ”

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, there are over 140,000 illegal aliens in Tennessee.

Senator Ketron said the formula devised by Democrats also did not take into consideration those voters who had other forms of voter identification which would not be considered in a Census count. According to the Tennessee Election Commission, voters can use the following current or expired identification as long as it contains a photo: Tennessee driver’s license, U.S. passport, federal or state government-issued employee identification, U.S. Military ID, Veteran Identification card, and a state-issued handgun carry permit. In addition, the law makes exception for voters who vote absentee by mail, residents of a licensed nursing home or assisted living center who vote at the facility, those who are hospitalized, citizens with a religious objection to being photographed, and voters who are indigent and not able to obtain a photo ID without paying a fee. Those who do not have photo identification will be allowed to vote by using a provisional ballot and given an opportunity to show their identification within two days after the election.

“Nothing in that raw census number tells you whether or not a person has an expired license with a picture on it, a veterans card, or an old passport, all of which are approved identification for voting purposes,” added Ketron. “We want every single eligible voter in Tennessee to be able vote, including those who need photo identification. However, we take exception to the misinformation being distributed by opponents of law.”

“Our election officials are working hard to educate voters regarding the facts of the new voter ID requirement. There are 95 town hall meetings in every county in the state tomorrow. This is in addition to scores of meetings to educate the public that have already taken place. They should be commended for their tremendous efforts. Any statement to the contrary is ludicrous. We will continue to work towards that goal and to ensure that every Tennessee voter’s vote is counted and not suppressed by an ineligible voter who commits fraud,” he concluded.

Census links: http://2010.census.gov/2010census/about/how-we-count.php, (see foreign citizens in the U.S.), http://2010.census.gov/campus/pdf/FAQ_CensusOnCampus.pdf (see Not a U.S. Citizen)

Rep. Carr: E-Verify to ‘Ensure Integrity’ of Workforce

Press Release from the House Republican Caucus, June 8, 2011:

Representative Joe Carr (R-Lascassas) today released the following statement regarding the signing of the E-Verify legislation:

“I am pleased that the Governor has signed this important legislation into law. Our citizens demanded reform on this issue, and this legislation is a huge step in the right direction.

The nation is waking up to the fact the federal government has fallen down on the job when it comes to border security. Tennessee is leading the way, and I was proud to sponsor this landmark legislation. This simple solution will ensure the integrity of our nation’s workforce.”

On the next to last day of the Session, the House of Representatives took a strong stand against illegal immigration in Tennessee by passing legislation authorizing the use of the federal E-Verify system by Tennessee companies. The bill passed by a unanimous 96-0 vote.

The bill requires all employers with six or more employees to participate. Businesses are provided two options: the E-Verify program, which has a 99.7% accuracy rate, or the presentation of a valid Tennessee driver’s license to check the lawful status of an individual.

State Costs From Illegal Immigration Disputed

Tennessee lawmakers leading a push against illegal immigration say it’s costing the state roughly $500 million a year — about the same amount spent to keep the entire city government in Metro Nashville chugging for four months.

But other policy experts argue that number exaggerates the case and take issue with its underlying assumptions.

At the center of the legislative effort targeting illegal immigration is Rep. Joe Carr, a Lascassas Republican sponsoring three related measures in the House.

One would require businesses to check the immigration status of prospective employees, using the federal E-Verify program. Another would require the state to check a person’s legal status before letting the person receive certain state benefits. And a third “Arizona-style” measure would have police check the documents of suspected illegal immigrants, turning over those deemed unlawful to federal officials.

Carr unveiled the three proposals at a press conference in February, saying, “According to the Pew Hispanic Center, there are over 140,000 illegals in Tennessee, costing the Tennessee state taxpayers a net of $496 million a year.”

Education

That estimate of half a billion dollars is actually not from Pew, but from a group called the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform. FAIR describes itself as nonpartisan, though some argue it has an anti-immigration slant. The Washington, D.C.-based group’s membership, according to its mission statement, consists of “concerned citizens who share a common belief that our nation’s immigration policies must be reformed to serve the national interest.”

FAIR finds the greatest cost driver from illegal immigrants to be education — the teachers, overhead and other costs associated with providing schooling for the children of illegal immigrants.

“Education for the children of illegal aliens constitutes the single largest cost to taxpayers, at an annual price tag of nearly $52 billion. Nearly all of those costs are absorbed by state and local governments,” according to FAIR.

Pinning down a firm estimate of the cost of illegal immigration is tough, in part because no one knows just how many students are in the state without permission. A bill by Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, proposes schools try to help gather that kind of data.

There’s also the question of who really counts as a legal citizen. If a married couple entering the U.S. without permission brings a child, then the law deems that child to be here illegally. But if that same couple has a child born in the United States, then under the 14th Amendment the baby is automatically granted citizenship. Carr finds this debatable, saying the amendment leaves open a question of jurisdiction, which he’d like to see spelled out in court.

Because he’s not convinced the children of illegal immigrants born in the U.S. are rightfully here, Carr, when tallying up the total impact of illegal immigration, factors in the cost of educating those so-called “birthright citizens” – as does FAIR.

A 2010 report from FAIR uses an estimated U.S. total of 13 million illegal immigrants – itself a slippery number to gauge, as compared to Pew’s estimate of 11 million. FAIR extrapolates that there are almost a million illegal immigrants in American schools, and figures the country also pays to teach another 2.5 million of their siblings who were born in the U.S.

Counting the two groups together, FAIR estimates just shy of 30,000 Tennessee students are the children of illegal immigrants, costing the state more than $280 million.

Researchers behind a 2007 study (pdf) from the state comptroller’s office didn’t hazard to guess Tennessee’s cost or the number of students here illegally, using instead the previous year’s total of 26,707 English Language Learners “as a rough estimate of unauthorized aliens in the schools, although the number also includes legal aliens.”

Susan Mattson authored that report. She agrees that education is one of the main drivers behind state spending for illegal immigrants, but points out that whether a student is here legally or not, federal law insists they receive a free education.

Taxes

The state report also hinted at potential economic gains from illegal immigrants.

“We found studies in Texas and Arkansas that were showing a small positive benefit of unauthorized aliens on their economy overall,” Mattson said in an interview with TNReport. “Now, these include the economic impacts also of that population: on their productivity, their wages, and consumption – what they’re spending.”

Since most of Tennessee’s revenue comes from a sales tax, consumers pay into the state’s coffers any time they make a purchase, whether they’re here legally or not.

Carr argues that even so, unauthorized workers tend to lack good educations and lucrative careers, so what they’re paying back hardly offsets their cost to the state. Citing the report from FAIR, Carr says the state gets about $50 million in taxes paid by illegal immigrants and spends $546 million in services for them – yielding a loss of roughly half a billion dollars.

The report’s methodology has drawn some backlash from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which says FAIR bends the math to advance a racist agenda.

“FAIR is notorious for never counting the tax benefits of the undocumented in the United States,” says center Research Director Heidi Beirich. “So they don’t take into account the pluses from this population.They only look at the negatives in terms of social spending.”

But FAIR dismisses that allegation, with a spokesman firing back that the SPLC has an agenda of its own.

For his part, Carr says he’s been careful not to put too much stock in FAIR’s findings. He says he’s spent literally hundreds of hours researching the issue and culling data from a variety of sources.

“Matter of fact,” Carr says of the $500 million cost estimate, “I think it’s probably low.”

More Hearings Scheduled

The Tennessee Tea Party posted on Facebook recently that Carr was looking for help: “A compromise may be in the works with Gov. Haslam that would water these bills down. Please call and email Gov. Haslam and urge him not to go soft on this legislation,” the post read.

Carr’s three bills are scheduled to go before the full House State and Local Committee on Tuesday, having passed together in that subcommittee late last month.

The subcommittee spent most of its time on a measure that would make employers verify the legal status of new hires, HB1378. Several business lobbyists stated their dismay with the measure, though Carr says he’s already made numerous concessions to them.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey later told reporters that lawmakers are trying to work with business interests, who would prefer such verification be voluntary, but he doubts any compromise will leave them completely happy.

The Senate version of the measure has passed out of the Commerce, Labor and Agriculture Committee and is now on its way to the Judiciary Committee.

Carr has said he still has work to do on the other two immigration measures he’s carrying. He said they have little chance of passing in their current form because fiscal notes estimate they’d cost the state millions of additional dollars, with one saying that while the legislation aims to cut costs by denying benefits to illegal immigrants, how much money would be saved “cannot be reasonably determined.”

GOP’s Illegal Immigration Bills Filed Separately

State lawmakers announced Wednesday they’ll push several different proposals aimed at curbing illegal immigration. That’s instead of packaging the measures together as a single unified or “omnibus” bill – a move many had suggested, including Governor Bill Haslam.

Sponsors say the piecemeal approach will let legislators take their time and study each of three proposals in depth.

Senator Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, is carrying an Arizona-style measure that would have local and state police check the legal status of suspected undocumented immigrants during stops for traffic violations, and hand over those deemed unlawful to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Another proposal, by Senator Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, would require all employers to check the immigration status of new hires through the federal E-Verify system.

And Senator Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, has a bill to let state agencies check for lawful status and thereby keep illegal immigrants from receiving state benefits.

The three bills all share the same House sponsor: Representative Joe Carr, R-Lascassas.

“What we believe we have is model legislation for the other states in the country; we feel that strongly about it,” Carr said.

Not everyone was so upbeat Wednesday; Hedy Weinberg, who runs Tennessee’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Ketron’s Arizona-style measure could get Tennessee sued. She says it invites racial profiling because police will consider suspects’ skin color and accent when judging who may be here illegally.

“It becomes a ‘papers, please’ law because it requires everyone to carry a federal or state-issued ID in order to prove that they are here legally,” Weinberg said. “There’s a presumption that you are here illegally if you don’t have those documents on you.”

For his part, Ketron argued profiling is “not acceptable” and is prohibited under the Arizona law, which is currently facing a federal challenge. The sponsors wouldn’t say exactly how Ketron’s bill differs from Arizona’s.

Ketron had been looking to push another proposal to require drivers’ license tests be in English only, with a few exemptions, but the fate of that bill is now uncertain.

Johnson’s measure to keep illegal immigrants off state benefits does contain a key exception, he noted, in letting children attend public school here no matter their immigration status. “That is dictated by federal law,” Johnson said. “You shall not deny a free public education to a child, regardless of their legality in the country.”

As to the bill requiring employers make sure of new hires’ legality, Tracy says he’s confident it won’t burden small business in Tennessee; the E-Verify system doesn’t cost them anything and is relatively quick, he said. A business would face fines for violating Tracy’s rule the first two times, and lose its license the third.

When asked, Tracy said there’s no specific gauge by which he’d judge his legislation’s efficacy at curbing illegal employment, saying “I just think it’s going to work.”

Carr, however, cited decreases in crime in states like Missourri and South Carolina as evidence of “demagnetization” — that is, a state becoming less welcoming to undocumented immigrants.

Tennessee must act in kind, said Carr.

Sen. Johnson said the push to crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants is motivated at least in part by the belief that they may be snatching up scarce jobs from legal residents who are capable and willing to work.

“Tennessee has an unemployment rate that is bordering on 10 percent,” said Johnson. “We have people that need the jobs that are out there. And if these jobs are being taken by folks that are in the country illegally, we wish them no ill will, but we would rather those jobs be had by lawful Tennesseans.”

Outlines of Immigration Debates Taking Shape

In a recent segment of Nashville NewsChannel 5’s Inside Politics, Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. Joe Carr said the Legislature will “very likely” adopt a measure that mirrors Arizona’s controversial immigration law, cracking down on undocumented immigrants by checking their legal status at traffic stops.

Hosted by political reporter Pat Nolan, the 30-minute show previewed some of the facets and flashpoints that are likely during 2011 legislative policy deliberations, including the tension between enforcement by the federal government and states’ rights, the lack of detail on how much illegal immigration costs the state of Tennessee and fuzzy projections about how many people are living in the state illegally.

Ketron and Carr, Republicans from Rutherford County, say the key this year will be passing a bill that can meet constitutional muster despite the fact that Arizona’s version of the law is currently tied up in federal courts.

Between taking jobs away from citizens and reaping the benefits of public services like health care and education — as well as taking up space in prisons — immigrants in the state illegally are draining Tennessee’s resources, both Ketron and Carr argued.

“We feel like it’s a big enough issue. The federal government is not going to deal with it,” said Ketron, Senate Republican Caucus chairman. “It’s an issue that creates issues for us at the state level at a time when our budget is really hurting. We’re $1.4 billion in debt.”

However, another guest on the show, Nashville attorney and activist Gregg Ramos, spoke in opposition to an Arizona-style bill and in rebuttal to what he characterized as misinformation being spread about the effects and impacts of illegal immigration.

Ramos pointed to a 2007 study that suggested illegal immigrants living in Tennessee have access to few public services and thus have a limited impact on state government finances.

The study, by then-Comptroller John Morgan, a Democrat who later became Gov. Phil Bredesen’s chief of staff and is now the chancellor for the Tennessee Board of Regents, did indicate those who are incarcerated create a heavier burden on local and state budgets.

Ramos accused Carr and Ketron of blowing any issues of concern that might exist entirely out of proportion. “What these gentlemen have been doing, with all due respect, is magnifying the problem and taking a lot of things out of context,” he said.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, between 100,000 and 160,000 illegal immigrants reside in Tennessee, making up about 2 percent of the state population.

“The fact that they came here illegally and reside here illegally, no matter how you talk about the economics of the issue, it doesn’t deal with the fact that you’ve got a substantial portion of people in the state of Tennessee breaking the law by being here, and that needs to be addressed,” Carr said.

Both lawmakers are expected to support multiple pieces of legislation targeting undocumented immigrants, including a bill that would require that driver’s license exams be administered only in English and another to mandate voters show a photo ID at the ballot box.

Carr is also hinting that he and other lawmakers may press for Tennessee to join other states in challenging or attempting to end “birthright citizenship” under the United States Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

TNGOP: Cobb ‘a Student of the Obama/Pelosi School of Political Correctness’

Press Release from the Tennessee Republican Party, Sept. 28, 2010:

Ty Cobb Toes Obama Line on Illegal Immigration; Gives Citizenship Status to Undocumented Workers

NASHVILLE, TN – During a debate last night, Democrat State Rep. Ty Cobb made it clear that he doesn’t believe those residing in the United States unlawfully should be referred to as “illegal immigrants,” but instead should be called “undocumented citizens.” Rep. Cobb’s comments were published in the Columbia Daily Herald:

The topic of immigration drew a strong reaction from the crowd, which appeared to be evenly divided between supporters of the two candidates.

Cobb said he prefers to refer to people in the United States illegally as “undocumented citizens.”

“I would say I don’t really like the [word] illegal, because we are all God’s children,” Cobb said, drawing shouts and groans from supporters of his opponent.

“Apparently Ty Cobb is a student of the Obama/Pelosi school of political correctness and believes illegal immigrants have earned the right to be called ‘citizens’,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney. “Plain and simple, those residing in this country unlawfully are illegal immigrants and are such unless they obtain U.S. citizenship through the proper channels. It is troubling Rep. Cobb would refer to illegal immigrants who are knowingly breaking the law as ‘citizens.’”

“The people of District 64 aren’t looking for a representative whose focus on illegal immigration remains on the most politically correct way to talk about the issue,” continued Devaney. “They want a representative who will enforce illegal immigration laws and protect jobs in Maury County – a county plagued by an unemployment rate of nearly 15 percent. The candidate who will work toward those goals is Republican Sheila Butt who believes we have to fight back against illegal immigration in Tennessee.”

Few Punished Under Existing TN Law Targeting Employers of Illegal Immigrants

Many politicians across the state are making the case for an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigration here in Tennessee.

But there’s also general agreement that a law the Legislature already overwhelmingly approved to punish businesses that hire undocumented workers is being underutilized.

Just days after the Obama administration announced it would sue Arizona over its controversial new state-level illegal-immigration enforcement law, a leading Tennessee Democrat filed a complaint with state labor officials alleging that managers of a high-profile, government-subsidized Nashville construction project were employing illegal aliens.

Officials are still reviewing Rep. Mike Turner’s allegation to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a full investigation, said Department of Labor spokesman Jeff Hentschel. But if the past is any indication, the chances the Old Hickory lawmaker’s complaint will result in any action against the employer appear slim.

The Labor Standards Division received 2,111 workplace complaints in Tennessee between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010, mostly for child labor and wage law violations.

But only two of the total number of complaints the department received addressed businesses employing illegal aliens, said Hentschel.

Since the state’s Illegal Alien Employment Act took effect on Jan. 1, 2008, the department has received a total of 28 complaints alleging companies employed illegal immigrants.

Fifteen of those allegations were pursued. In only two complaints since the law took effect 31 months ago has the department sought to punish a company for employing illegal immigrants. In one case, an employer quickly pleaded guilty and fired suspected illegal immigrants before the state could suspend the company’s business licenses. A second company is currently awaiting disciplinary action.

Officials at the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development claim they have only limited tools and restricted legal authority to sniff out workers who are in the country illegally, or to prove a case against an employer who hires them.

Turner, who voted against a resolution declaring support for Arizona’s immigration law during the last legislative session, said in his complaint he had obtained inside information that the construction company was employing illegal aliens.

“While I am not employed at the job site and do not have the ability to personally verify these allegations, I know the persons who have witnessed the employment of illegal aliens at the Convention Center job site and know that they are credible individuals,” the Tennessee House Democratic caucus chairman said in his complaint filed July 15.

Up until July 2008, the labor department essentially had nothing to do with immigration law enforcement.

Under the Illegal Alien Employment Act in Tennessee — approved with no opposition on June 7, 2007 in the House, and with only Nashville Democrat Douglas Henry voting “No” June 12, 2007 in the Senate — the department can take enforcement action against Tennessee businesses.

However, formal complaints against employers, or requests for investigations, must be filed only by designated government employees or elected officials.

The result is the department’s enforcement of the spirit of the law is seriously lacking, argues Murfreesboro Republican Bill Ketron, a primary sponsor of the act, which he said was patterned after similar bills in other states trying to “stop the flow” of money and jobs to illegal immigrants.

Sen. Ketron suggests labor department bureaucrats take some investigative initiative, “multitask” and dig deeper to find immigrant workers when conducting other routine inspections, instead of waiting for complaints to land on their desks.

“How hard is it before you leave to say, ‘Can I see your documentation on all your employees?’” asked Ketron, who, along with Republican Reps. Joe Carr and Tony Shipley, is in Arizona to deliver the Tennessee General Assembly’s vote of confidence for the state in its legal confrontation with the federal government.

“That’s the frustrating part about bureaucracy in state government,” he added.

Indeed, many illegal immigrants working in Tennessee go undetected, and those who employ them unpunished, acknowledge labor officers. A company that provides the state with information indicating employees filled out all the required I-9 employment forms will face no punishment if they can reasonably show they didn’t know illegal aliens were working on the job, said Dan Bailey, the Department of Labor’s general counsel.

Bailey said part of the problem is that the department lacks access to federal immigration records, without which state officials are unable to connect the dots and determine who is or is not in the country legally.

The department can only check to make sure forms were completed correctly for every worker, he said — after that, the business is in the clear.

“We cannot do anything until a complaint is filed,” said Bailey.“It is a complaint-driven system. And then when we get a complaint, we cannot respond to profiling issues.”

“We can’t remove (illegal immigrants). We can’t fine them. We can’t do anything.  But if we know there’s an undocumented worker, we can report it to ICE,” he said, referring to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, which is chiefly responsible for immigration laws.

Immigration Group Founder Endorses Wamp

Press Release from the Minuteman Project; July 26, 2010:

Only Candidate with Proven Record on Ending Illegal Immigration, Enforcing Border Security

Aliso Viejo, CA – Minuteman Project Founder and President Jim Gilchrist, the nation’s leading grassroots activist on the issue of immigration reform and border security, announced today that he is endorsing Congressman Zach Wamp in his bid for Governor of Tennessee.  Gilchrist cited Wamp’s strong record on securing our borders, denying illegals any form of amnesty, and cracking down on taxpayer funded benefits that attract illegals to the United States.  Polls show that immigration reform and border security remains one of the top issues facing voters of the state of Tennessee in the upcoming August 5 Republican Primary.

Gilchrist stated, “Instead of politicians who like to talk about illegal immigration without actually having a record of acting to end this problem, America needs real leaders like Zach Wamp to implement Arizona style laws in states like Tennessee.   With his strong track record of calling for the Federal Government to enforce our laws and secure our borders, Zach Wamp is the only candidate who truly has a committed stand on the issues of immigration reform and border security.  We need Zach Wamp as Governor of Tennessee to end the chaos of illegal immigration.”

Regarding the August 5 Republican Primary Gilchrist said, “For too long law abiding Americans have grown tired of watching the political establishment lack the will to enforce our nation’s laws when it comes to border security and immigration policy.  For over 15 years Zach Wamp has earned the strongest record of any member of the Tennessee Congressional Delegation on this issue and has proven he will fight that same status quo establishment.  Tennessee needs someone in Nashville that will fight on behalf of taxpayers to end the influx of illegal aliens in America and that is why I wholeheartedly endorse Zach Wamp for Governor of Tennessee.”

Jim Gilchrist founded the multi-ethnic Minuteman Project on Oct. 1, 2004, after years of frustrated efforts trying to get a neglectful U.S. government to simply enforce existing immigration laws.  Called “the world’s largest neighborhood watch”, their volunteer members aid efforts of the US Border Patrol by watching for illegal activity along the US-Mexican border.

Jim Gilchrist is the founder and President of the Minuteman Project, a multi-ethnic grassroots organization dedicated to border security and immigration reform.  For more information see www.MinutemanProject.com.

Lt. Guv: TN AG Should Back AZ

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.

Nine other states have filed amicus briefs weighing in on the case.

“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.”

Ramsey Asks AG for Amicus Supporting AZ

Letter from Lt. Governor and Republican Candidate for Governor, Ron Ramsey; July 23, 2010:

Dear General Cooper:

As you are aware, on July 6, 2010, the United States Department of Justice filed suit in the United States District Court, District of Arizona, to enjoin enforcement of Arizona S.B. 1070 (Laws 2010, Chapter 113), as amended by H.B. 2162, and to challenge the constitutionality of that law. It appears to be the Department’s position that the power to regulate immigration is vested exclusively in the federal government and that the State of Arizona possesses minimal, if any, authority to adopt or enforce state policies or programs designed to combat the problem of illegal immigration within its own borders. If the federal government will not or cannot stem the tide of illegal immigration in Arizona, then the citizens and taxpayers of Arizona are helpless to protect themselves.

Although this litigation relates specifically to legislation enacted by the State of Arizona, its outcome will likely impact the safety and economic wellbeing of all the other states, including Tennessee. Acknowledging that reality, on July 14, 2010, an amicus curiae brief supporting the constitutionality of the Arizona law was filed by the attorneys general of Michigan, Florida, Alabama, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Virgina. On July 21, 2010, at least eighty-one members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives jointly filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the Arizona law.

In overwhelming numbers, Tennesseans are gravely concerned. I urge you, as the citizens’ attorney to file your own amicus curiae brief (or, if possible, to join with the nine states that have jointly filed) to ensure Tennessee’s voice will be heard loud and clear by the federal courts on these critically important issues. Please do your utmost to ensure that Tennessee retains its sovereign right to combat the problem of illegal immigration within its own borders.

Sincerely,

Ron Ramsey

Lieutenant Governor