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Tennessee files unique suit to stop the federal government from sending refugees to the state

People attend a demonstration against the immigration polices of U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington Square Park on Feb. 11 in New York City. Tennessee is the first state to cite the 10th Amendment in a lawsuit against the federal government for resettling refugees in their state. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Tennessee has become the first state in the country to employ the 10th Amendment of the Constitution to sue the federal government for resettling refugees in their state.

Citing the 10th Amendment, which states the federal government can only possess the powers delegated to it by the U.S. Constitution and that all remaining powers not expressly given are reserved for the states, the Volunteer State filed a 15-page lawsuit Monday alleging that the federal government is not acting in accordance with the Refugee Act of 1980. The act states that the federal government must cooperate with the states and local government when resettling refugees.

Tennessee lawmakers argue that the federal government's non-compliance with the act is unconstitutional.

According to The Tennessean, Tennessee opted out of the refugee resettlement program, but the federal government didn't stop sending refugees to the state.

Instead, Catholic Charities of Tennessee was appointed to administer the program. The lawsuit alleges that the federal government still forced Tennessee to pay for the refugee resettlement program, and it requests that the court prohibit the federal government from resettling any refugees in Tennessee until all the costs associated with the program are transferred strictly to the federal government.

"Plaintiffs will suffer significant and irreparable harm unless this Court intervenes," the lawsuit reads.

Tennessee is the first state to use the 10th Amendment as grounds for a lawsuit over the Refugee Act of 1980, although other states have sued over the act itself using different arguments.

Republican state Sen. John Stevens, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said in a statement that the federal government has been shielded from the consequences of their actions.

"The Constitution does not allow the federal government to force me as the elected representative of the 24th Senate District to implement federal programs while they sit in Washington insulated from the consequences," he wrote.

State Rep. Terri Weaver, another plaintiff in the lawsuit, said, "The only way we can get back to our constitutional beginnings and the intent birthed by our Founding Fathers is to go and take it back."

Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R) was quick to clarify that this lawsuit was not a judgment of President Donald Trump's administration or his recent immigration executive order but instead was intended to bolster the credibility of the travel ban, which is scheduled to go into effect Thursday.

"We want to convey to the president that we support his efforts concerning immigration and refugee resettlement and believe this suit for declaratory relief is consistent with what would likely be his position regarding states like Tennessee, which have withdrawn from the refugee resettlement program but are forced to continue paying costs associated with it," Norris said.

More than 2,000 refugees were resettled in Tennessee throughout the 2016 fiscal year, including 349 refugees from Iraq and 241 from Syria. The majority, however, came from places not included in Trump's immigration executive order, including 516 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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