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Press Releases

Aid-Claims Fraud by Illegal Immigrants a Focus of Gov’t Crackdown

Press release from the Tennessee House Republican Caucus; May 25, 2012:

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—A measure to crack down on illegal immigrants seeking to claim public benefits in Tennessee was signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam earlier this week.

House Bill 1379, sponsored by Representative Joe Carr (R—Lascassas), requires each Tennessee department and State agency to verify the lawful presence in the U.S. of each person 18 years of age and older who applies for state, local, or federal public benefits.

“We have seen far too many instances of illegal immigrants coming to America and taking advantage of the benefits our system offers to citizens who legitimately need support during rough times,” stated Carr, a long-time advocate for reform on the issue. “This new law will help us rein in the abuse numerous reports have discovered in the system.”

While the public benefits system has been a frequent source of abuse by illegal immigrants, a recent news story shows illegal immigrants are also ripping off taxpayer dollars through the tax system.

Nashville’s WTVF-TV uncovered a scam whereby undocumented workers are receiving millions of dollars in tax refunds by filing false tax returns. The report, with video, can be accessed by clicking here.

Rep. Carr was immediately alarmed.

“This is just unreal. We have been fighting to end one problem and now we find out $14 million taxpayer dollars are going to the pockets of individuals who are here illegally? And that is just from this one company here in Murfreesboro. In total, the report cited a study that found $4.2 billion is handed out to illegal immigrants. It’s complete madness,” said Carr. “While I’m glad we have taken a positive step with this new law, it now appears to be just one of many we are going to have to take. I pledge to work with my counterparts in Congress and our Governor to end this practice, at least in Tennessee.”

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Health Care News NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Rep. Curry Todd Says He Has Cancer

A state lawmaker who has repeatedly attracted national attention announced to a legislative committee Tuesday he has an incurable form of cancer.

Rep. Curry Todd, a Collierville Republican, revealed his condition during a House Commerce Committee meeting Tuesday while arguing for HB1087, a proposal requiring insurance companies to pay for oral chemotherapy treatments.

“This is not about me. This is about helping those other cancer patients out there, and that’s what I’m about,” he told reporters in a press conference, saying he has known about his disease for four years and added it is incurable. He said he does not yet require treatment for his cancer, specifically called macroglobulinemia.

Todd said he announced his condition, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, in an effort to help people would would benefit from the bill if it were to become law. The measure is getting pushback from the insurance industry, which sees the measure as a government mandate. The measure will get picked up again in the committee Tuesday, April 10.

The representative found himself in the national spotlight repeatedly over the last few years, most recently for his DUI arrest in Nashville last October, which also included charges of possession of a gun while intoxicated and refusing a Breathalyzer test. Todd was the sponsor of legislation years before to allow gun carry permit holders to bring their guns with them into bars so long as they abstained from drinking.

Todd also drew attention to himself in 2010 when he likened pregnant women in the country illegally to “rats.”

The representative declined to comment on how his condition would affect his pending DUI charge in court, saying the question was “inappropriate.” He said he planned to seek reelection.

 

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Press Releases

ACLU: Anti-Immigrant Bill Will Hurt TN Economy

Statement from American Civil Liberties Union; Jan. 24, 2012: 

As we move into the third week of the legislative session, we are already reviewing a number of bills that undermine fair treatment and due process for immigrants. First up this week: the Arizona-style copycat bill that encourages racial and ethnic profiling will be heard in the House General Subcommittee of Finance, Ways and Means on Wednesday afternoon.

HB 1380/SB780 requires all law enforcement to question the immigration status of any person they stop, regardless of whether the person is actually charged with breaking a law. The bill implies that police will be trained to ask people for their “papers” based on an undefined “reasonable suspicion” that they are in this country unlawfully. The criteria for assessing such a suspicion will inevitably be accent, attire, hair, jewelry or skin color.

Tell your lawmakers that this intolerant bill is completely out of step with our values of fairness and equality.

Economically, this bill will really hurt Tennessee. In addition to the loss of revenue from depressed tourism and economic development, as seen in Arizona, the bill’s fiscal note increases state and local expenditures by nearly $5 million in the first year alone.

Let your representatives know that they should stop wasting money to create a police state based on unconstitutional racial profiling.

Alabama, Tennessee’s neighbor to the south, passed a similarly egregious anti-immigrant bill last year that has faced legal challenges from the ACLU and our allies, as well as the Department of Justice. Additional states that have enacted Arizona-copycat laws such as Utah, Indiana, Georgia and South Carolina, have likewise faced legal challenges and had numerous provisions found unconstitutional. Not only do these laws preempt federal law by misappropriating immigration enforcement as a state power, they offend our values of fair treatment and due process.

Please contact your representative to let him/her know that HB1380/SB780 is bad for Tennessee and that s/he should oppose the legislation.

Thank you for using your voice in support of justice for all.

Hedy Weinberg

Executive Director, ACLU of Tennessee

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Business and Economy Featured News

E-Verify Law Gets Mixed Reaction from Businesses

Tennesseans taking jobs in both the private and public sectors must now prove their citizenship to their new employers thanks to a new state immigration law that took effect this month.

So far, business advocates say they’ve gotten a variety of feedback from employers about the new requirements which came at the hands of a Legislature that originally sought to impose a bundle of illegal immigration reforms before settling on the new hiring regulations.

Some larger companies have opted to continue using their current system of record keeping to satisfy the new law while some small businesses have said they like the idea behind the regulation but using the E-Verify system to weed out undocumented immigrants is cumbersome.

“It’s kind of a mixture,” said Deb Woolley, president of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who added most businesses have had trouble navigating the electronic E-Verify system at first. “But once you got there and got familiar with it, it was pretty good. I guess it was a learning curve.”

Under the Tennessee Lawful Employment Act that kicked in Jan. 1, businesses and governments are required to either verify their new hires’ citizenship through the federal E-Verify system or maintain records like driver’s licenses or birth certificates that show the employees are lawfully in the country.

The new mandate comes in phases. Beginning this month, companies with at least 500 employees and state and local governments must either use the E-Verify system or maintain their own records.

Businesses with more than 200 employees will join those ranks beginning July 1, and small companies with more than six employees must adhere to the new requirements by Jan. 1, 2013.

The Department of Human Resources is also “strongly encouraging” all state agencies to use E-Verify in the new year instead of opting to collect employee documents, according to the department’s spokesman.

Tennessee’s unemployment rate is down to 9.1 percent but is still higher than the nation’s 8.6 percent unemployment rate.

Jim Brown, state director of the Tennessee chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, said he’s also hearing a variety of feedback from his members about the new law. But by and large, members of his organization won’t be required to follow the procedures until next year.

“We feel like when we get to 2013, we’re going to get a lot more phone calls: ‘What do we need to be doing?’” said Brown, who advocated against early versions of law as it made its way through Capitol Hill last year where it passed almost unanimously. “We’ve said all along the illegal immigration problem needs to be addressed.”

Organizations violating the new law can be fined between $500 and $2,500 for each unverified worker, depending on the number of violations the Department of Labor issues to that company.

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Leftovers on Menu for New Legislative Year

Republicans cleaned a lot of bills off their plate in their first year controlling the General Assembly and the governor’s office, but they built up a pile of bills they were saving for later.

Lawmakers say they plan to get down to business right away after returning to Nashville Jan. 10 in hopes of adjourning in late April to begin campaign season. But until then, they’ll have a roughly $30 billion budget to haggle over, new bills to debate and old ones to decide whether they’re worth passing before the election.

Guns on Campus, In Employee Parking Lots

Lawmakers talked about but never passed a number of gun bills proposed last year, including letting handgun carry permit holders lock their weapons inside their car while at work, HB2021, which made it to the House floor but never came up for a vote. Another bill, HB2016, would let college faculty and staff carry guns on campus, although that measure never made it out of committee. Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle say they expect to see those issues introduced but probably sidelined this year. “Being an election year, I don’t see leadership letting that come to the surface,” said Sen. Bill Ketron, the Senate Republican Caucus Chairman from Murfreesboro.

Drug-Testing Unemployed, Welfare Recipients 

There’s a movement afoot to drug-test Tennesseans collecting public assistance. Two versions of the proposal were introduced early last year, SB48 and SB652, that would have focused on people collecting welfare. Both bills were immediately shelved in 2011, but Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is breathing new life into the idea with an eye on people collecting unemployment benefits and worker’s compensation. “I don’t think, again, that we need to be supporting that lifestyle with government money. I’m very much for that and I think you’ll see that passed this session.”

Income Tax Ban

This bill may have been left behind last Spring, but it’s expected to pass come 2012. The Senate OK’d a resolution, SJR221, asking voters to clearly ban an income tax by rewriting a portion of the Constitution. The legislation was held back in the House on the last few days of session. Lawmakers expect it will be one of the first they take up come January, but tax reform advocates plan to continue fighting for an income tax in exchange for lower food taxes. Debate over this bill is far from over — it would need a two-thirds vote in the 2013-14 General Assembly to get on the ballot.

Illegal Immigration

Republican lawmakers rallied to copycat Arizona’s illegal immigration bill and require drivers license exams be taken in English, but those bills never moved. In the midst of debate, another immigration bill filed that session fell just under the radar. HB1379 would require that governments check for proof of citizenship before issuing entitlements like TennCare, food stamps or unemployment benefits. GOP leaders say they’ll pick up this one and run with it and probably leave the others behind. “We’ve always wanted to ensure Tennessee wasn’t a magnet for illegal aliens,” said Rep. Debra Maggart, House Republican Caucus Chairwoman.

Picking Judges

Lawmakers kicked around the idea of changing how judges are selected, contending the current practice of the governor selecting judges who are later subject to retention elections is not in line with the state Constitution. “I think almost everyone agrees that’s a bad idea. I just don’t think everyone’s agreed on what is a good idea, yet,” said House GOP Leader Gerald McCormick. Democrats generally side with the Supreme Court, which has upheld the current system. One bill that remains from last year, SJR183, would ask voters to constitutionalize merit-based appointments. Other proposals have since popped up, like SJR475 which would require changing the Constitution to require the Senate OK the governor’s appointees.

Democrat’s Job Bills

Although they’re outnumbered, Democrats plan to take another stab at passing a stack of jobs bills that never got out of committee last year, such as calling for a small business tax holiday and giving tax credits to new entreprenuers. “We’re going to try again,” said House Democrat Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley. “None of the jobs bills passed and none of them got out of committee but we’re going to have another go at it.” The same goes for Senate Democrats, said the chamber’s Democratic vice chairman, Andy Berke. “That’s really where we should begin 2012 in the legislature rather than most of the issues that have been named as priorities so far”

Wine in Supermarkets

This perennial bill doesn’t fall into any of the caucus’ priority lists but has become a staple piece of legislation to expect every year. SB316 seeks to allow certain retail food stores to sell wine instead of just beer. It would also let liquor stores sell items like cork screws and mixers. Last session, the bill never got out of committee. Advocates for wine in grocery stores say their new strategy is to convince the Legislature to let locals decide if they want wine in grocery stores through voter referendums, although legislative leaders say they haven’t heard any serious talk that the bill has momentum to pass this time around.

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Business and Economy Featured Liberty and Justice Transparency and Elections

Immigration Issues Still on State Lawmakers’ Minds

Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly are bragging on their accomplishments in immigration reform — especially about a unique approach to the E-Verify hiring system — but what could be ripe for debate is the list of immigration bills they’re ready to push next year.

Lawmakers say they intend to pursue legislation beginning in January on immigration enforcement at the state level (SB0780), denying state taxpayer benefits to illegal aliens (HB1379), an English-only driver’s license process (SB0010) and, in what may be a highly volatile issue, an effort (HB0751) to seek clarification on whether a child born here to illegal aliens should be considered a citizen, as has generally been the practice.

Legislators are trumpeting their accomplishments in this year’s session not only on the successful E-Verify plan and the material support bill to fight “homegrown terrorism” but a lesser-known bill meant to address issues related to legal refugees who come into the state.

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition has issued a detailed report on the Legislature’s efforts on immigration this year, including continued warnings about each of the bills that didn’t pass. The group claims success in holding the line on “Arizona copycat legislation,” but it remains aware of states’ individual efforts at enacting immigration reforms.

“Given the many challenges this session, the increase in anti-immigrant legislation across the Southeast and the continued failure of Congress to overhaul our legal immigration system, it’s clear that our struggle is far from over,” the organization said.

Judging from Tennessee legislators’ plans for 2012, including legislation on the “Arizona copycat” matter, where legislators demand state law enforcement officers check the immigration status of people they stop, advocates for immigrants do appear to have more battles ahead.

Immigrant rights groups have begun to challenge such laws in courts in other states.

Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, one of the most adamant proponents of immigration legislation in the state, has said he will try to get an enforcement bill passed next year.

“We waited to see what Georgia was doing, what Alabama was doing, and we’re going to tweak our bill,” Ketron said. “We’re going to come back with a vengeance, and thank goodness the Supreme Court ruled the way they did just a few weeks ago on that issue.

The high court dealt strictly with an employment issue, upholding Arizona’s law penalizing businesses that hire illegal immigrants, lending strength to states that want to use the federal E-Verify identity system. There is debate, however, as to how far the court might go in other areas of enforcement, such as checking papers. The court ruling, nevertheless, was a sign that states may be allowed to act on immigration enforcement where the federal government has not acted.

“We’re going to bring that bill hot and heavy,” Ketron said. “It’s going to be the best bill passed so far.”

Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, carried the E-Verify legislation passed in Tennessee this year, along with Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas. The system, run by the federal Department of Homeland Security, checks the eligibility status of workers through an Internet database. More than 225,000 employers use E-Verify, but it is mostly voluntary, unless state governments require it. Tennessee now requires it, although the law allows for use of a worker’s driver’s license.

Both Tracy and Carr believe the state has an advantage over other states with E-Verify laws.

Their optimism comes from the fact Tennessee will implement its law though the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, which already has purview over issues related to worker’s comp, unemployment insurance and labor standards such as child employment. The department handles the Illegal Alien Employment Act passed in 2007, so the belief is that the department can bring the most effective form of enforcement on E-Verify.

“It’s much harder for the district attorneys to do, because they don’t have the money or the wherewithal to do it,” Tracy said.

Carr concurred.

“Every other state uses the D.A.’s office as the sole means by which to initiate the prosecution,” Carr said. “We didn’t want to do that, not only because it comes up pretty close against the line of challenging the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. What we did was we said, ‘Fine, we will make it an administrative issue.'”

The labor department will not enforce whether or not an employer has hired an illegal alien. It will only enforce the issue of whether the business is participating in E-Verify. The new state law requires participation and, in fact, holds harmless the employers who use the system if a worker is later found to be an illegal immigrant.

“Participation in E-Verify doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not they hired an illegal,” Carr said. “That’s a totally different statute.”

Then there is the refugee issue. Tracy has expressed concern about a program where the federal Department of State is sending refugees — often from countries prone to civil wars — into U.S. communities, working through Catholic Charities. The new law calls for the organization bringing in the refugees to meet with community leaders beforehand to let them know how many are coming so communities can prepare and calls for quarterly reports to community leaders and to the state.

“They’re legal refugees,” Tracy said.

“Especially in small communities it has a big impact, in housing, schools, hospitals, medical care. The community cannot stop them from coming, but it can be prepared for them.”

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition calls the effort an “unprecedented attack on refugees.”

“New laws should encourage effective communication between refugee groups, refugee settlement agencies and receiving communities, but not create a hostile environment for refugee families who have come to Tennessee to escape persecution, find honest work and begin rebuilding their lives,” the group said.

Carr wants to test the courts on so-called “anchor babies,” children born in the United States whose parents are illegal immigrants.

The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

Carr points to the comma.

“There are five words: ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof.’ The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on the legality of an anchor baby or a child born to parents who both are illegal in the United States. Never ruled on that,” Carr said.

“We’ve got a bill already filed and written. The point is to get the Supreme Court to initiate a ruling. Is a child born in the United States whose parents both are illegal a naturalized citizen? I think we need a determination of that because we all know there is a significant element that’s taking advantage of our laws. And all the interpretation is that it’s an administrative procedure that’s being wrongly interpreted as described in the 14th Amendment.”

Carr is also working on an initiative known as the SAVE bill, for Systematic Alien for Entitlements Program, where agencies granting benefits receive help determining an applicant’s immigration status. The bill’s intent is to prevent taxpayer benefits from going to illegal aliens. Carr said Speaker of the House Beth Harwell and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick have said it will be a Republican caucus position. He also said Gov. Bill Haslam has said he will fund the bill.

“That’s a huge commitment. We’re going to get that bill passed,” Carr said.

Ketron has tried for years to get a bill through that required the written test for a driver’s license to be in English.

“It’s a safety bill,” he said. “We welcome anybody who wants to come to this country, no matter what color you are or what country you come from. You’re welcome to come to this country. If you come here, live by our laws and speak the English language first.”

Republicans hold a 64-34-1 majority in the House and a 20-13 majority in the Senate. One notable factor involving immigration bills, however, is Haslam, who has questioned whether some measures in the past present Tennessee as a welcoming state.

 TNReport.com is a nonprofit news agency supported by generous donors like you.

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Press Releases

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.

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Press Releases

Carr: SCOTUS Ruling on E-Verify Bodes Well for TN

Press Release from the House Republican Caucus, May 26, 2011:

Representative Joe Carr Releases Statement on U.S. Supreme Court’s E-Verify Decision

(May 26, 2011, NASHVILLE) – On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Arizona’s use of the federal E-Verify program is constitutional.

The State created the law back in 2007. It allows Arizona to suspend the licenses of businesses that “intentionally or knowingly” violate work-eligibility verification requirements. Companies would be required under that law to use E-Verify, a federal database to check the documentation of current and prospective employees.

Last week, Tennessee passed similar legislation that mandates all companies in Tennessee to use the E-Verify program or check drivers’ licenses of potential employees.

After learning of the decision, Representative Joe Carr (R—Lascassas) released the following statement:

“I am extremely encouraged by today’s Supreme Court ruling. The E-Verify program is an efficient way for businesses and government to partner up and verify the eligibility of every worker.

“The nation is waking up to the fact the federal government has fallen down on the job when it comes to border security. Today’s decision paves the way for States to move forward with a simple solution that will help ensure the integrity of our nation’s workforce.”

The case is Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting (09-115).

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Featured News

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.”

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Rat Patrol

Rep. Curry Todd remarked during a Fiscal Review Committee presentation this week at Legislative Plaza that the idea of government-funded care for pregnant women who cannot prove they have United States government permission to be in this country struck him as not unlike inviting a rat infestation.

The Collierville Republican made the comments after asking CoverKids program managers whether the state checks the citizenship status of care recipients.

Todd specifically wanted to know if program administrators demanded “proof that you are here legally before you can get assistance.”

Asked if he meant children, Todd replied, “not the children, I am talking about the adults.”

A CoverKids program administrator  responded that CoverKids doesn’t provide medical coverage to pregnant women, but it does offer “unborn coverage.”

“According to the federal government, we cannot ask for immigration documents, or verify that information, because we are providing coverage to the unborn — the unborn child will be classified as a U.S. citizen,” she said.

Todd was also told, “Under the guidance that was provided to states, under the previous administration, there is a technical guidance letter that states that for covering the unborn child, we are not permitted to determine citizenship, because the child, once born, is a U.S. citizen.”

Rep. Todd responded: “Well, they can go out there like rats and multiply, then, I guess.”

The meeting in its entirety can be viewed here.