- Associated Press - Friday, June 2, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Several Tennessee-based refugee rights’ organizations asked a federal judge on Friday to dismiss a lawsuit the state Legislature filed over the refugee resettlement program.

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Bridge Refugee Services and Nashville International Center for Empowerment also asked to intervene in the suit the state General Assembly filed against the federal government in March.

In asking to get involved, the groups argued they didn’t trust the federal government to represent their interests. The court filings noted that President Donald Trump has expressed an intention that states decide if they accept refugees.

They also noted that Trump signed an executive order in March that temporary suspended admission of refugees to the U.S. The president’s order, which also banned visitors from six mostly Muslim countries, has been blocked by the courts.

But the organizations argued that it’s not just the president who holds anti-refugee views.

“Prior actions by several high level members of the administration, some of whom are involved in this litigation, express a similar policy preference,” the court documents say.

The legal paperwork specifically notes that Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price co-sponsored legislation when he was a member of Congress that would have allowed states to block refugee resettlement programs.

It mentioned that Vice President Mike Pence, as governor of Indiana, had tried to prevent Syrian refugees from settling in the state. “And Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose Department of Justice is responsible for defending this suit, was a noted opponent of the refugee resettlement program while he was a senator,” the filing said.

The lawsuit that members of the Republican-dominated Tennessee General Assembly filed against the federal government had argued that the refugee program should be shut down because it is forcing the state to spend money on additional services, such as health care and education.

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery III declined to file the lawsuit on behalf of lawmakers, so the suit was filed by the Thomas More law firm for free. Gov. Bill Haslam last year refused to sign a resolution that passed in the Legislature demanding the lawsuit.

In asking that the case be dismissed, the organizations argued that only the state attorney general has the right to sue on behalf of the state. They also said that if the state takes Medicaid money it can’t pick and choose who gets it if they qualify for the health program for the poor.

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