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Blackburn: Loretta Lynch Immigration Comments Show ‘a True Lack of Acceptance’ of Constitution, Law

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. 07; January 28, 2015:

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) issued the following statement in response to comments made today by President Barack Obama’s nominee for United States Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

When asked by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who she felt has more right to a job in this country — lawful immigrants and citizens or those who entered unlawfully, Lynch responded by saying she believes “that the right and obligation to work is one that’s shared by everyone in this country regardless of how they came here.”

“The comments of Loretta Lynch were disturbing and showed a true lack of acceptance of our constitution and the law. It is outrageous that President Obama’s nominee for Attorney General of the United States was unable to state with clarity that American citizens and legal immigrants have a greater right to work in this country than illegal aliens,” Blackburn said. “While Ms. Lynch may prefer that aliens unlawfully present in our country be willing to work, I prefer that we uphold the law. It is the responsibility of the Attorney General to administer justice in a manner that is fair and impartial. We should be prioritizing legal immigration and not incentivizing unlawful behavior.”

Blackburn recently penned an op-ed for Breitbart News entitled What About The American Worker? In the piece Blackburn discusses the impact of President Obama’s executive amnesty on the American worker and how lawful Americans are being betrayed by President Obama’s outsourcing of jobs to illegal aliens.

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Press Releases

TN Congressional Delegation Statements on Vote to Defund Obama Executive Action on Immigration

Press release from U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. 01; January 14, 2015:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN) released the following statement after voting to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the rest of the fiscal year. The bill specifically prohibits any funding from being used to carry out President Obama’s November 20 executive actions on immigration reform:

“I was proud to support this important bill which funds DHS operations for the rest of the fiscal year and blocks funding to implement the president’s executive amnesty. I hope the Senate moves swiftly to get legislation to the president’s desk.

“I am completely opposed to the president’s irresponsible and unconstitutional approach to immigration reform. It is extremely troubling and infuriating that we have a president who believes he can change laws without congressional approval, and it’s even more infuriating that the president himself is on record over a period of six years stating that he doesn’t have the authority to do what he is doing, at one point declaring, “I’m not a king.” We can’t accomplish anything meaningful if the president continues to try to ignore our laws and implement policies that haven’t been authorized by Congress. It’s up to the president. He can walk back his irresponsible governing tactics and work with Congress, or he can expect strong pushback from both chambers until the end of his presidency.”

Background:

This bill funds the Department of Homeland Security through September 30, 2015.

The legislation:

  • Prohibits funding to implement the President’s executive memos on immigration reform from November 20, 2014;
  • Ensures no illegal immigrant receives any federal benefit;
  • Stops the Administration from considering new, renewal or previously denied Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals applications, which is the president’s previously-announced policy allowing unaccompanied minors to stay in the country.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn. 03; January 14, 2015:

WASHINGTON− This morning, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 240, theDepartment of Homeland Security Appropriations Act. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, released the following statement after the vote.

“Today, the House put an end to President Obama’s unconstitutional actions by passing legislation to completely defund the President’s executive amnesty. The President has declared twenty-two times that he does not have the authority to bypass the legal immigration system and grant executive amnesty; yet, he did just that. When I entered Congress, I made an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, and therefore, it is my duty to stop the President’s unlawful actions. This legislation further prioritizes our national security by strengthening border security, increasing government transparency, and enhancing immigration enforcement. We must protect our nation and end this executive overreach.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, Re-Tenn. 04; January 14, 2015:

Congressman Scott DesJarlais, M.D. (TN-04) released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed HR 240, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, which will fund DHS for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2015, while blocking President Obama’s unlawful executive amnesty:

“I was proud to join like-minded conservatives in the House in passing legislation to effectively stop President Obama’s dangerous and unlawful executive amnesty. For too long, the president has ignored the Constitution and violated our separation of powers. And he knows it. In fact, the president said on 22 separate occasions that the Constitution does not give him the authority to take unilateral action on immigration. Yet that is precisely what he did. Today, the House reasserts its power of the purse by cutting off funds for President Obama’s unconstitutional actions.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; January 14, 2015:

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06) spoke on the House floor to praise the House passage of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act. The legislation fully funds the Department of Homeland Security through the remainder of the fiscal year while ensuring that no funding is made available for President Obama’s executive amnesty. The bill additionally includes provisions of Rep. Black’s Immigration Compliance Enforcement Act, legislation she previously passed through the House Judiciary Committee and reintroduced this year to defund the position of “public advocate” or any similar position at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Below is a transcript of her remarks, or for a video click here.

Mister Speaker, last year I promised my constituents that in the new year we would bring the fight on illegal immigration and act to restore the separation of powers that was upended by President Obama’s lawless overreach – and I meant it.

That is why I proudly voted for the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act and the attached amendments.

This bill is simple – it fully funds DHS while ensuring that no dollars are made available for the President’s executive amnesty.

I’m especially pleased that this measure contained key provisions of my bill- the Immigration Compliance Enforcement Act – which will defund the Obama Administration’s “public advocate” to lobby on behalf of illegal immigrants.

Mister Speaker, we still have three co-equal branches of government. When the President oversteps his bounds, we are compelled to respond.

I yield back my time.

Background on President’s Executive Amnesty:
On November 20, 2014 President Obama announced a series of executive actions that would grant temporary legal status and work permits to some four million unlawful immigrants. TheDepartment of Homeland Security Appropriations Act as amended prevents any funds – whether they are appropriated funds or user fees collected by the agency – to be used to carry-out these executive actions. The legislation additionally freezes funding for the President’s Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which uses prosecutorial discretion to grant legal status to select undocumented immigrants.

Background on ICE Public Advocate:
On February 7, 2012, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the appointment of a public advocate to handle complaints and questions about the administration’s immigration enforcement policies.  This position serves as a point of contact for illegal and criminal immigrants in deportation proceedings as well as illegal alien advocacy and community groups. On June 7, 2012 the House of Representatives passed an amendment authored by Rep. Black to withhold funding for this position. That language was subsequently inserted into the Consolidated and Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013 which was signed into law by President Obama in March 2013. (see Sec. 567 here)

Following the enactment of this measure, the Obama Administration rebranded the public advocate position as “Community Outreach,” allowing employees in this department to continue their activities as before. This prompted Rep. Black to introduce the Immigration Compliance Enforcement Act which would defund both positions at ICE or any other position “the functions of which are substantially the same.” This legislation passed the House Judiciary Committee in the 113th Congress and was re-introduced as H.R. 276 this year. Provisions of this bill are included in Section 551 of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act which passed the House today. This section reads, “None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to provide funding for the position of Public Advocate, or a successor position, within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

Press release from U. S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. 07; January 14, 2015:

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) today continued her fight to stop President Obama’s lawless executive amnesty with House passage of her amendment to freeze the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Blackburn’s amendment was approved 218-209 as part of H.R. 240, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act.

Blackburn’s amendment prohibits any Federal funding, fees, or resources from being used to consider or adjudicate any new, renewal, or previously denied application for any alien requesting consideration for deferred action.

“The American people have overwhelmingly rejected executive amnesty and spoke loud and clear last November when they sent Republicans to Congress to stop President Obama’s lawless actions, Blackburn said. “President Obama has circumvented Congress and unilaterally re-written immigration law from the oval office. I applaud the House for taking action today by approving my amendment to freeze the DACA program, which was unlawfully created by Executive Memo on June 15, 2012.

“Last year, I had the opportunity to visit an unaccompanied alien children (UAC) facility at Fort Sill and also traveled to the southern border where I was briefed by U.S. Border Patrol agents. These visits confirmed what we have known all along — DACA is the magnet drawing Central American children here. UAC’s believe they will receive amnesty, as those before them have.”

The Office of Refugee Resettlement released 53, 518 UACs to sponsors within the U.S. in FY2014.As result, there is a strong correlation between the President’s amnesty and the surge of UACs coming to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol have also advised that at least 40% of UACs are abused on their journey here.

“President Obama is turning every state into a border state and every town into a border town, said Blackburn. “Unfortunately, his lawless amnesty has taken Democrats from the party of ‘YES WE CAN’ to the party of BECAUSE WE CAN.”

VIDEO: Blackburn Leads Fight to Stop Obama’s Lawless Amnesty

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Featured Liberty and Justice NewsTracker

Slatery Joins Challenge to Obama Immigration Executive Order

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, appointed to the position in September, took a step this week that is sure to win him popularity points with the Republican supermajority-controlled General Assembly.

Slatery announced Monday that the Volunteer State would be joining with 24 other states to sue President Obama over his recent executive order on immigration. “However frustrating and painstakingly long the federal legislative process may be, making law is the prerogative of Congress, not the executive branch,” Slatery said in a press release. He added that while Congress could “resolve” all of the issues raised by the executive directive by “timely enacting legislation,” the state shouldn’t “sit on the sidelines of this case.”

While the executive action was about immigration, Slatery said the lawsuit is “more about the rule of law and the limitations that prevent the executive branch from taking over a role constitutionally reserved for Congress.”

The executive order conflicts with existing federal law and replaces “presecutorial discretion” with a policy of “unilateral nonenforcement,” he said.

“Asking a court to review this issue is the prudent choice, especially when state resources will be taxed under the directives to provide benefits like unemployment compensation and health care,” Slatery’ statement said.

The executive order would affect about 4 million undocumented immigrants by halting the deportation of undocumented parents of citizens or permanent residents who have been here more than five years, as well as allowing immigrants over the age of 30 who were brought to the U.S. as children to qualify for deportation deferrals. Additionally, the action beefs up border security, allows for more visas for foreign investors and STEM degree holders and changes federal immigrant detention procedures.

In November, following the president’s announcement, state Rep. Andy Holt and state Sen. Mae Beavers filed a joint resolution to call on Gov. Bill Haslam to sue the president over his immigration action. However, at the time Slatery was hesitant to commit to joining other states in seeking legal action against the president, but said he would consider it.

Tennessee Lt. Gov Ron Ramsey praised the decision to challenge “the president’s unconstitutional action on immigration” made by Slatery, who was Haslam’s chief legal counsel prior to his appointment by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

“Barack Obama tossed aside not just  public opinion but key tenets of our constitutional democracy when he bypassed Congress to grant illegal immigrants defacto amnesty,” Ramsey said, and added he was “proud” Tennessee was joining the lawsuit.

Likewise, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick agreed Slatery was correct in his decision to join the lawsuit on “the constitutional question of whether the president should have acted without congressional authority.”

When Obama visited Music City earlier this month to promote the new policy, he explained that he picked the Tennessee capital in part because the city has “one of the fastest-growing immigrant populations in the country.”

Speaking at the Casa Azafrán community center in Nashville, the president said the action he took was “a middle-ground approach” that “will make our immigration system smarter and fairer.” According to Obama, his action “isn’t amnesty or legalization or even a path to citizenship,” and only applies to a specific group of undocumented immigrants.

“What we are saying is that until Congress fixes this problem legislatively — and you have deep ties to this country and you are willing to get right by the law, and do what you have to do, then you shouldn’t have to worry about being deported or separated from your kids,” Obama said. He invited Congress to be involved in the process, as long as they “pass a bill that addresses the various components of immigration reform in a common-sense way.”

The GOP members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation have released statements sharply critical of both the president’s visit to Nashville earlier this month and his executive action, while the state’s federal Democratic representatives were more supportive.

One criticism many Republicans had for Slatery’s predecessor, Robert Cooper — legal counsel to former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen prior to his appointment in 2006, was that he had declined to join a multi-state lawsuit against the federal government over the legality of the Affordable Care Act. In fact, one reason members of the GOP wanted to see the three Democratically-appointed state Supreme Court justices unseated this August was to hold them accountable for Cooper’s decision not to join the Obamacare lawsuit.

However, while McCormick acknowledged to TNReport that Slatery likely had more conservative inclinations than his predecessor, he took his decision to join the lawsuit as “more of a constitutional question” than a sign of a difference in politics.

While the ACA actually passed Congress, McCormick said the president’s directive was different in that it “was just an executive action taken right after election day without the consent of the the people or the elected representatives of the people.”

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Business and Economy NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Alexander Defends Immigration Stance

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has been criticized this campaign season for voting in favor of a bill referred to by conservatives as “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

But the two-term incumbent has defended his vote in favor of the legislation, and said that he’d in fact “voted to end amnesty” for undocumented workers.

Last summer, GOP primary candidate Joe Carr issued a press release that took Sen. Alexander to task on the issue. The Carr press release noted that all seven Republican members of the state’s U.S. House delegation have released statements in opposition to the so-called “amnesty” bill, which was “was written by Sen. Chuck Schumer, endorsed by Nancy Pelosi and backed by La Raza and the Chamber of Commerce.”

Alexander’s position on S. 744 was named by Carr as one of the chief reasons he didn’t feel comfortable giving his former primary opponent an endorsement in the November general election.

Alexander has also sparred over the issue with his Democratic opponent, Knoxville attorney Gordon Ball.

In mid-September, Ball, promoting himself as a moderate Democrat and seeking the support of Alexander’s critics from the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, accused the Maryville Republican of supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants.

The topic came up again when the two candidates met in their only joint appearance of the election season, at the Oct. 16 Tennessee Farm Bureau Candidates Forum. The Senator defended the legislation he voted for, which he said was initially recommended to him by the TN Farm Bureau.

Alexander also pointed out that while the legislation he supported included penalties for those here illegally and didn’t contain a pathway to citizenship, the policy that Ball voices support for on his campaign website has no penalties for immigrants coming into the country without federal government permission and includes such a pathway.

According to Ball’s website, he supports “common sense immigration reform” that would uphold border security and existing labor laws, as well as giving undocumented immigrants a “path to citizenship” that would “require them to pay taxes and be registered.”

Alexander said at the candidates’ forum earlier this month, “I voted to end amnesty,” which he accused Ball of supporting.

“The definition of amnesty is a path to citizenship, with no penalty,” Alexander said.

Ball later questioned Alexander’s credibility on any immigration issues, noting in an email to TNReport that the incumbent senator skipped a recent vote on a border funding.

“I’ve never gotten to vote for any legislation and he’s had 12 years. He didn’t even show up,” Ball said in an e-mail.

In late July, Senate Republicans, led by Alabama’s Jeff Sessions, voted to kill the border funding bill, which they said would not prevent Pres. Barack Obama from granting temporary amnesty and work permits for illegal immigrants. Although Alexander was not present for the vote, the bill was successfully defeated when Senate Democrats couldn’t muster enough votes waive a point of order raised by Sessions.

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Press Releases

Carr Picks Up Eagle Forum PAC Endorsement

Press release from the Campaign for Joe Carr for U.S. Senate; July 28, 2014:

NASHVILLE, TN – Eagle Forum PAC, a conservative public policy organization founded by pro-family leader Phyllis Schlafly, has endorsed Tennessee State Rep. Joe Carr for the United States Senate.

“Joe Carr will stand up for families in the U.S. Senate,” said Schlafly. “He is a strong voice for limited government and traditional values. When President Obama and his allies in the Senate attack our constitutional liberties, Joe will always defend them. Joe spoke out against the amnesty that Democrats and establishment Republicans wanted to give to millions of illegal immigrants, and the crisis on our southern border has proved him right. He recognizes the damage that illegal immigration inflicts on Tennessee’s working families. He will fight for a conservative solution that makes border security a priority and restores the rule of law.”

“Phyllis Schlafly has had a long and storied record of conservative activism that has played a significant role in shaping the voices that lead today’s conservative movement,” Carr said. “I am proud and humbled to have the support of a someone so well-respected throughout the conservative movement stand with me in the fight to grow the voice of conservatives in Washington.”

“Every day, the President and liberals in the Senate are working to undermine our most fundamental liberties,” added Schlafly. “Joe understands that our rights don’t belong to the government. He has been a tireless advocate for the unborn, traditional marriage, and the Second Amendment, and he will be the same in the U.S. Senate. President Obama has drawn a line in that sand,” concluded Schlafly, “and he will not back away unless we have strong conservative leaders like Joe Carr standing up and fighting back. Now more than ever, we need to rally behind true conservatives like Joe Carr.”

Eagle Forum PAC supports candidates who are committed to a conservative philosophy of limited government, national sovereignty and traditional values.

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Haslam Sends Letter of Concern to Obama Over Unaccompanied Minors

Letter to U.S. President Barack Obama  from Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; July 25, 2014:

The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama:

I write to you to express my concern about the number of unaccompanied immigrant children entering this country and the failure of the federal government to notify states in which children are being released.

On July 13, the nation’s governors met with Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell during the annual National Governors Association meeting, which I hosted in Nashville this year. We spent a significant amount of time in that meeting discussing the issue of unaccompanied immigrant children. Although this is a complex issue and one that ultimately must be solved at the federal government level, governors are rightly concerned about the impact on states. We emphasized to
Secretary Burwell the need to be informed of any children being relocated to our states.

It is unacceptable that we became aware via a posting on the HHS website that 760 unaccompanied children have been released by the Office of Refugee Resettlement to sponsors in Tennessee without my administration’s knowledge. Not only was our state not informed prior to any of the children being brought here, I still have not been contacted and have no information about these individuals or their sponsors other than what was posted on the HHS website and subsequently reported by media.

Although solving the border crisis is a federal responsibility, this influx of immigrant children could have a significant impact on state and local governments. Therefore, we strongly believe that the state needs to be informed prior to any additional unaccompanied immigrant children being released in Tennessee, and we also need immediate answers to the following questions:

1. What was the process for determining that these children should be released to sponsors in Tennessee?
2. How did you locate and evaluate the fitness of their sponsors?
3. What medical screenings were the children given prior to their release in Tennessee?
4. What is the official immigration status of these children and their sponsors?
5. In what localities are these children now residing?
6. What are the legal requirements concerning the provision of services for these children while they are in the state?
7. What additional information is available on these children, such as age and health status?
8. How long will these children be in Tennessee?

Tennessee is a diverse and welcoming state, and we also understand that this is a complicated issue. However, an influx of unaccompanied immigrant children to the state, with little information being made available to the public or to state leaders, creates confusion and could be very problematic. The start of school is approaching for many districts across the state, and the federal government’s actions have caused great uncertainty around this issue.

I appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to receiving a response to these urgent questions.

Sincerely,

Bill Haslam
Governor

cc: The Honorable Sylvia Burwell, Secretary, HHS

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Press Releases

TN Higher Ed Leaders Join Call for Immigration Reform

Press release from Tennesseans for Immigration Reform; June 6, 2013:

NASHVILLE, TN – Twenty-one chancellors and presidents of Tennessee’s top higher education institutions have sent a joint letter to Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Bob Corker urging their swift action and support for comprehensive immigration reform.

The letter urges the senators to support a bipartisan solution that would ensure international students educated in American universities will have a clear path to contribute to the American economy and create jobs in the U.S. after they graduate.

“As leaders of the higher education institutions that are preparing the creators of tomorrow’s scientific breakthroughs, we call on you to address a critical threat to America’s preeminence as a global center of innovation and prosperity—our inability under current U.S. immigration policy to retain and benefit from many of the top minds educated at our universities.”

To help protect America’s lead in innovation and new job creation, the university leaders’ letter calls for swift action on the issue, stating “we simply cannot afford to wait any longer to fix our broken immigration system.”

“The important role immigrants play in American innovation must not be discounted or diminished; their contributions and inventions lead to new companies and new jobs for American workers, and are an enormous boon to our economy.”

Among those signing the letter are: Jimmy Cheek, Chancellor of The University of Tennessee in Knoxville; John Morgan, Chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents system; Nick Zeppos, Chancellor of Vanderbilt University; Shirley Raines, President of the University of Memphis; and Brian Noland, President of East Tennessee State University.

Other signatories include: Dr. Robert Fisher, Belmont University; Dr. John Smarrelli, Christian Brothers University; Dr. Harvill Eaton, Cumberland University; Dr. James Williams, Fisk University; Dr. Greg Jordan, King College; Dr. Gary Weedman, Johnson University; Dr. James Dawson, Lincoln Memorial University; Dr. Randy Lowry, Lipscomb University; Dr. Kenneth Schwab, Middle Tennessee School for Anesthesia; Dr. Bill Greer, Milligan College; Dr. Gordon Bietz, Southern Adventist University; Dr. Richard Phillips, Southern College of Optometry; Dr. Glenda Glover, Tennessee State University; Dr. Philip Oldham, Tennessee Tech University; Dr. Dan Boone, Trevecca Nazarene University; and Dr. Nancy Moody, Tusculum College.

A copy of the complete letter follows:

Tennesseans for Immigration Reform

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Senator Lamar Alexander
455 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Senator Bob Corker
425 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Alexander and Senator Corker:

Thank you for your continued strong support of our colleges and universities here in Tennessee. We are grateful for your focus and leadership for expanded student access, achievement, completion and research success throughout our great state.

That’s why we are writing to seek your help and support on one of the most important national issues directly impacting our institutions—and Tennessee’s future economy—comprehensive immigration reform.

As you know, Tennessee has witnessed significant growth in the number of foreign-born contributors to our society. In fact, more than eight times as many Tennesseans today are foreign born than was the case 50 years ago. We continue to see a growing international presence throughout the Tennessee economy as well.

As leaders of the higher education institutions that are preparing the creators of tomorrow’s scientific breakthroughs, we call on you to address a critical threat to America’s preeminence as a global center of innovation and prosperity—our inability under current U.S. immigration policy to retain and benefit from many of the top minds educated at our universities.

The United States has historically been the world leader in innovation, invention and creation of ideas that drive economic prosperity. Research shows that in 2011, foreign-born inventors were credited contributors on more than 75 percent of patents issued to the top 10 patent-producing universities in the U.S.

It is in our universities, however, where we educate and train the next generation of researchers, innovators and leaders, and we are proud that the United States remains a top magnet for the world’s brightest and most driven students.

Across the U.S., in 2009, students on temporary visas represented 45 percent of all graduate students in engineering, math, computer science and physical sciences—earning 43 percent of all master’s degrees and 52 percent of all Ph.Ds.

The important role immigrants play in American innovation must not be discounted or diminished; their contributions and inventions lead to new companies and new jobs for American workers, and are an enormous boon to our economy.

However, after we have trained and educated these future job creators, our antiquated immigration laws too often turn them away to work for our competitors in other countries.

Limited numbers of visas force American-educated immigrants to leave the country or face untenable delays for a permanent visa. Top American-educated engineers from India and China face wait times of up to 9 years to get a permanent visa, and new applicants from these countries may face considerably longer waits.

Yet, while we turn away American-educated, trained and funded scientists and engineers, there is a growing skills gap across America’s industries. One quarter of U.S. science and engineering firms report difficulty in hiring, and the problem will only worsen as the U.S. is projected to face a shortfall of 230,000 qualified advanced-degree workers in scientific and technical fields by 2018.

While we are sending away highly skilled workers trained at American universities, competing economies are welcoming these scientists and engineers with streamlined visa applications and creating dedicated visas to ensure that the foreign students who graduate from their own universities can stay and contribute to the local economy.

We simply cannot afford to wait any longer to fix our broken immigration system.

We hope you will work together with your colleagues in the Senate on a comprehensive and bipartisan immigration reform solution that ensures our top international graduates have a clear path to stay here to help us create more American jobs and to ensure that America is the world’s leading home for innovators and innovation.

Thank you again for your outstanding leadership—and for your consideration on this important issue.

Sincerely,

Robert C. Fisher
President
Belmont University

John Smarrelli, Jr.
President
Christian Brothers University

Harvill C. Eaton
President
Cumberland University

Brian Noland
President
East Tennessee State University

H. James Williams
President
Fisk University

Gregory D. Jordan
President
King College

Gary E. Weedman
President
Johnson University

B. James Dawson
President
Lincoln Memorial University

Randy Lowry
President
Lipscomb University

Kenneth L. Schwab
President
Middle Tennessee School for Anesthesia

Bill Greer
President
Milligan College

Gordon Bietz
President
Southern Adventist University

Richard W. Phillips
President
Southern College of Optometry

John Morgan
Chancellor
Tennessee Board of Regents

Glenda B. Glover
President
Tennessee State University

Philip B. Oldham
President
Tennessee Tech University

Dan Boone
President
Trevecca Nazarene University

Nancy B. Moody
President
Tusculum College

Nicholas S. Zeppos
Chancellor
Vanderbilt University

Shirley C. Raines
President
University of Memphis

Jimmy G. Cheek
Chancellor
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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Press Releases

ACLU Report Documents ‘Devastating Impact’ of 287(g) Jail Program

Press release from the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee; December 12, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee today released a report, “Consequences & Costs: Lessons Learned from Davidson County, Tennessee’s Jail Model 287(g) Program,” documenting the serious problems with the Davidson County Sheriff’s recently-ended 287(g) jail program. The purpose of the report, which is being sent to the Knox and Rutherford County sheriffs, both of whom have submitted 287(g) applications, is to explain the devastating impact of the program and to urge them to withdraw their applications.

“We hope that the Rutherford and Knox County sheriffs will read our report and recognize that it is in the best interest of their communities to withdraw their pending 287(g) applications. These programs only damage community trust in law enforcement, increase the potential for racial profiling and waste precious law enforcement resources,” said ACLU-TN Executive Director Hedy Weinberg.

The 287(g) program run by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency deputizes state and local police and sheriffs to enforce federal immigration law. DHS will meet on December 17 to make decisions on applications for new 287(g) agreements, including the applications submitted by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office. DHS is also currently reviewing its existing 287(g) agreements with 57 law enforcement agencies in 21 states whose agreements were temporarily extended, most until the end of December 2012 (1).

Weinberg noted, “We are especially concerned about Rutherford County’s application given the area’s history of hostility toward local Muslims and immigrants, including a Sheriff’s Office training led by a known anti-Islam speaker (2) and local legislators’ sponsorship of numerous harsh, anti-immigrant bills.”

Key findings from the report, based on original quantitative data analysis led by Professor Katharine Donato of Vanderbilt University’s Sociology Department as well as interviews with community members, include the following:

  • While the 287(g) program was developed with the stated goal of responding to “immigration violators who pose a threat to national security or public safety (3), ”the vast majority of the time, deportations through Davidson County’s 287(g) program were triggered by minor, often traffic-related offenses. 

    In 2012, misdemeanors accounted for nearly 79 percent of arrestsport on Impact of Davdof foreign-born people (4) and for those ultimately put into removal proceedings, a staggering 67 percent of their arrests were for Level 2 offenses, which was the level that included traffic violations in the data analyzed. Simultaneously, after implementation of 287(g), among the foreign-born population, arrests for the most severe Level 1 offenses actually decreased 21 percent, moving the program far from its stated goal of targeting threats to public safety.

  • Davidson County’s 287(g) program encouraged racial profiling and disparate treatment from stop to detention, based on characteristics such as appearance, ethnicity or language skills.Though under a jail model 287(g) agreement, the agency with immigration authority is not the same agency responsible for arresting people on the street, evidence from Davidson County illustrates how the program’s presence impacted the perceptions and actions of others involved in the criminal justice system, from police on patrol to other public officials, whose statements regarding the influence of language and immigration status on their decisions are included in the report.In addition, data shows that implementation of the 287(g) program in Davidson County corresponds with foreign-born people being arrested at an increasing rate for the single charge of “No Driver’s License,” which was not only the most common gateway charge for deportation in Davidson County, but also something that cannot be determined until after the individual is pulled over. If no other charge is brought, then the reason for pulling that person over is questionable at best and quite possibly a case of racial profiling. Of single charge arrests, the percentage that were for “No Driver’s License” increased 9.4 percent for the foreign-born after implementation of 287(g). The percentage of single-charge arrests for “No Driver’s License” that led to removal increased from 18 percent of arrests before implementation of 287(g) to 43 percent after, an increase of 136 percent.
  • The 287(g) program led to immigrants living in fear and distrust of law enforcement. Numerous examples in the report illustrate how, by introducing the threat of immigration enforcement into community policing, Davidson County’s 287(g) program deterred immigrants, including domestic violence survivors, from reporting crimes they experienced or witnessed, ultimately undermining public safety as a whole.

Lindsay Kee, Communications Director and author of the report, explained that “this program has been sold as an effective mechanism to deport dangerous criminals and make Nashville safer. Yet, our data indicates that of the nearly 10,000 individuals deported under 287(g), most had been arrested for minor violations. When you look at arrests of foreign-born people during 287(g)’s implementation, the percentage of arrests for the most dangerous crimes actually decreased.”

Yesterday the ACLU, along with 161 other organizations from across the country, also sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security calling for termination of the 287(g) program.

Read the full report: “Consequences & Costs: Lessons Learned from Davidson County, Tennessee’s Jail Model 287(g) Program.

(1) Fact Sheet: Delegation of Immigration Authority Section 287(g) Immigration and Nationality Act, http://www.ice.gov/news/library/factsheets/287g.htm (last visited December 6, 2012).

(2) Bob Smietana & Tony Gonzalez, Sheriff Hires Mosque Foe to Lead Terrorism Training, The Tennessean (Feb. 15, 2012), available at http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-02-15/terrorism-training-tennessee/53102430/1.

(3) Fact Sheet: Delegation of Immigration Authority Section 287(g) Immigration and Nationality Act, supra.

(4) Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, 287(g) Five-Year Report 8 (2012).

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Governor Opposes Directing Tennessee Cops to Check People’s Immigration Status

Gov. Bill Haslam says he isn’t swayed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that it’s OK for local law enforcement to ask people to prove their citizenship during routine police stops.

Haslam has stood in the way of legislative attempts to bring an Arizona-style immigration law to Tennessee and instead ushered in other laws to discourage undocumented workers from settling in the Volunteer State.

“My concern with an Arizona-type law has always been the position it puts local law enforcement in, of having to make those kind of judgements,” Haslam told reporters Tuesday in Nashville.

Instead, he prefers policing immigrants by trying to stop them from finding work or by denying them most public benefits.

In a mixed ruling this week, the nation’s highest court struck down three of four aspects of the controversial 2010 Arizona immigration law. But the court unanimously upheld a key provision, which allows state and local law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest if there is reasonable suspicion he or she is an illegal immigrant.

While the court confirmed the legality of local governments taking on immigration enforcement, it warned that the Arizona law could find itself in other legal hot water for other constitutional challenges. Critics say that could include a violation of civil liberties, such as using racial profiling.

Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, led the charge to put a similar provision into Tennessee law in 2011 and said he’d like to consider taking another stab at it in 2013.

Carr was stonewalled by the Haslam administration when he tried, though, and instead focused on other bills focused on making Tennessee unfriendly to undocumented immigrants.

One proposal requires businesses and governments to check their employees’ citizenship status either by running their workers’ identity through the federal E-Verify system or by maintaining workers’ hiring records, such as a copy of their drivers’ license. Another measure, known as the SAVE Act, requires people who apply for most public aid to prove their citizenship. Both measures are now law.

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SCOTUS Immigration Ruling Could Prompt New Legislation Push Next Year

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a key part of Arizona’s controversial immigration law is essentially a green light to Tennessee lawmakers to enact something similar here, state Rep. Joe Carr said Monday.

The Lascassas Republican says he’ll likely use the ruling to refuel his drive toward making Tennessee an inhospitable place to foreigners who lack explicit U.S. government approval to be in this country.

In a decision released Monday, the Supreme Court struck down three provisions of the 2010 immigration law. However, the court upheld the element that allows state and local law enforcement agents to check people for immigration status. Tennessee Republicans like Carr have said they’d like to see something similar implemented here.

“The mandatory nature of the status checks does not interfere with the federal immigration scheme,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in delivering the court’s opinion. “Consultation between federal and state officials is an important feature of the immigration system. In fact, Congress has encouraged the sharing of information about possible immigration violations. …The federal scheme thus leaves room for a policy requiring state officials to contact (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) as a routine matter.”

Since it is clear now that the Supreme Court believes state and local police can make inquiries into a person’s immigration status as a matter of routine, then Tennessee ought to consider “expanding the authority of law enforcement” to enable that here, said Carr.

“What we want is a coherent, cohesive strategy for the problem Tennessee has that the federal government refused to address,” said Carr. “We really have done a good job… We want to make sure that there isn’t something left for us to do.”

However, the Arizona law has yet to go into effect. And that means future legal challenges could be in store — in particular, claims that police are engaging in racial profiling, said Gregg Ramos, an attorney and activist for immigrant rights in Tennessee.

“I think that alone should give Rep. Carr pause on whether we need to enter the fray here in Tennessee to do anything more than we’re doing here now,” he said, adding that talk from Carr about taking state immigration laws any further amounts to “fearmongering.”

“That’s his political issue,” Ramos said. “He’s chosen to remain on the front pages to appear relevant. Let me make it clear: Tennessee’s situation is nowhere near the situation that Arizona has encountered and is encountering.”

Tennessee already has rules on the books to allow authorities to determine whether someone arrested is a citizen, although Carr pushed to strengthen those laws in 2011. The move stalled because of its hefty $5 million price tag. Also, many of those queries were already being forwarded to ICE.

Inspired in part by Arizona’s controversial immigration law, Carr and Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, sponsored legislation requiring businesses and government agencies to use E-Verify or any other system to ensure that all new employees are legal U.S. residents, and require people who apply for most public aid to prove their citizenship. Both measures, passed in 2011 and 2012, respectively, became law.

An estimated 140,000 unauthorized immigrants, about 2.2 percent of the state’s population, called Tennessee home in 2010, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.