Acting Assistant Secretary Robinson Says TN’s New Refugee Law Already Part Of Federal Law
Posted by Christopher Coen on February 10, 2012
According to an article from Chattanooga, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) David M. Robinson claims that Tennessee’s new law – that mandates refugee resettlement agencies to report quarterly to local governments and allows local communities to apply for a “moratorium” on refugee resettlement – is already part of federal law. He must be referring to the part of the Tennessee that deals with quarterly reporting since there is no federal law about moratoriums. The “federal law” he refers to is actually a ORR regulation, as well as required via the State Department refugee contracts. Robinson claims he believes that the State Department (and/or their contractors?) have always abided by this regulation. Yet, they have not always abided by it, hence Tennessee’s claimed need to codify the requirement via state law. In New Hampshire the state refugee coordinator went so far as to claim that she could not require a refugee resettlement agency to consult with a city about its work, even though the ORR regulation required her, as the state refugee coordinator, to conduct quarterly meetings between the resettlement agencies and state and local governments. So, it seems that there is a disconnect between what the government oversight agencies believe that they do, and what actually happens. An article about Robinson’s visit is found in the Chattanooga Times Free Press:
A top U.S. State Department official, who spent two days in Tennessee discussing the state’s refugee resettlement program, said he wants to give communities a “louder voice in the process.”
“We believe it’s in the best interest of the United States that we pursue this program, but also we need to recognize the community nature of the program,” David Robinson, acting assistant secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, Migration, said during a news conference Thursday.
Robinson has been in the state for a two-day visit with community members, local government officials and employers to discuss the resettlement process…
…Tennessee is the first and only state to pass a law that mandates resettlement agencies to report quarterly to local governments and allows local communities to apply for a “moratorium” on refugee resettlement if those agencies overload local resources.
The law was approved last year, but the Tennessee Office for Refugees said no one has applied for the moratorium.
Robinson said that it’s already part of federal law but said Tennessee’s law “makes perfect sense.”
He added, “We believe that’s what we’ve always done,” he said… Read more here
All of this brings another question to my mind: If the new bill in New Hampshire for a proposed one-year moratorium on refugee resettlement is probably unconstitutional – as University of New Hampshire Law professor Albert Scheer told a NH state House committee last week – wouldn’t that be an indication that the part of Tennessee’s law which allows local refugee moratoriums also likely be unconstitutional? Sheer says it is likely unconstitutional because it singles out a particular class of legal residents. He cited a 1941 U.S. Supreme Court case involving a California law forbidding indigent residents from other states from settling in California.