- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee is joining a multistate lawsuit seeking to halt President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, state Attorney General Herbert Slatery announced Monday.

Slatery notified the parties in the lawsuit that Tennessee will become the 25th state to join the legal challenge filed in federal court in Texas, saying the state “cannot sit on the sidelines of this case, when unlawful directives of this magnitude grant lawful presence and other rights like work permits to such a large number.”

“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 said in a statement.

Obama traveled to Nashville earlier this month to tout his decision to extend deportation relief and work permits to 4 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally. His action would affect those who have been here more than five years and have children.

Stephanie Teatro, the co-executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, called the decision “a step backward” for the state.

“An estimated 50,000 Tennesseans will be able to apply for deferred action, allowing them to work legally, increase their earnings, and pay more in taxes,” Teatro said in a statement.

Slatery became Tennessee’s first Republican attorney general since Reconstruction when he took office last month. His decision contrasts with predecessor Bob Cooper’s refusal to join a multistate lawsuit over Obama’s health care law, saying it would “not have been a wise use of state money.”

Cooper, who was heavily criticized by Republicans over the decisions, argued that the only reason to join the lawsuit would have been “to make a partisan political statement on a divisive national issue.”

Slatery’s announcement was lauded by Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey on Monday.

“Barack Obama tossed aside not just public opinion but key tenets of our constitutional democracy when he bypassed Congress to grant illegal immigrants de facto amnesty,” Ramsey said in statement. “I’m proud that Tennessee will among the states standing up to this truly shocking display of executive arrogance.”

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, for whom Slatery previously served as chief legal counsel, has “confidence” in the decision to join the lawsuit, said spokesman David Smith. Haslam during Obama’s visit said the president should have worked with lawmakers on a solution instead of taking executive action. Instead, the executive action “kind of rolling a hand grenade in room,” Haslam said at the time.

Smith echoed those sentiments Monday, saying the governor “believes there was an opportunity to have a real discussion on what immigration policy should be, and the president’s actions took that opportunity off the table.”

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