Gov. Bill Lee has a little over a month to decide whether Tennessee will continue allowing the resettlement of refugees.
The decision was prompted by an executive order issued by President Trump in September, which asks both states and cities to “consent in writing” if they want to continue refugee resettlements.
But Tennessee has yet to respond. The delay has caused concern among refugee organizations. The largest resettlement agency in the state, the Catholic Charities of Tennessee, says it’s been lobbying Gov. Bill Lee to consent.
“We are a dynamic growing state, and our economy is strong, and these people have contributed a considerable amount to many of the businesses here locally,” said Judy Orr, the executive director of the nonprofit.
The governor’s office told WPLN it’s waiting on additional guidance from the federal government to make a final decision.
Agencies Could Lose Money
Since assuming office, Trump has been placing caps on how many refugees can come to the country. For the 2020 fiscal year, that number is 18,000.
This past year, fewer than 700 refugees were resettled in Tennessee. That’s a smaller number than past years, Orr said.
Tennessee currently has five organizations — including Catholic Charities of Tennessee — that receive federal funding to help refugees transition into their new life in the United States. The money is used for needs such as housing, transportation and food.
If the state ends up refusing resettlements, refugees would be placed in another state.
They could, later, move to Tennessee if they want, but the Orr said refugees and organizations in the state could face additional challenges.
“The money that is allotted for each of the refugees to help settle them over time will not follow. It will only be available if they stay in the city where they have been accepted originally,” she says.