Tennessee: Refugee Absorptive Capacity Act could be the ticket for other areas experiencing refugee overload

A model for other states?

Just a week ago we told you about the mayor of Manchester, NH begging for a moratorium on refugees being resettled in his city.   The Tennessee bill, just passed and signed into law and discussed in some detail in the Shelbyville Times Gazette, may be just the model other states could use to demand some control of the refugee program at the local level.

Frankly in many locations, citizens are incensed when they learn that “church” groups like Catholic Charities are being paid by the US State Department and the Dept. of Health and Human Services to financially stress towns and cities by the importation of poverty.

From the Shelbyville Times Gazette (emphasis mine):

A bill that originated from the desk of State Sen. Jim Tracy has been signed into law that would make sure that local communities would be able to absorb refugees.

But a state immigrant rights group has blasted the new measure, calling it an “unprecedented attack on refugees.”

Called the Refugee Absorptive Capacity Act, the new law, signed by Gov. Bill Haslam on May 27, will require Catholic Charities, the state’s refugee program agency, to meet four times a year with local governments to plan and coordinate “the appropriate placement of refugees in advance of the refugees’ arrival …”

A number of refugees from a variety of countries, such as Somali, Burma and Egypt, have moved to Shelbyville in recent years to be closer to jobs at the Tyson Foods facility.

Tracy told the T-G in February that there has been “a lot of discussion across the state about this, particularly in Bedford County … but other counties also.” He explained at the time that the law would require resettlement agencies to let local governments know when a large number of refugees are coming “because it puts a burden on the local community.”

“Absorptive capacity” refers to a community’s ability to meet the existing needs of its current residents, the availability of affordable or low-cost housing, including existing waiting lists, and “the capacity of the local school district to meet the needs of the existing or anticipated refugee student population.”

The law also refers to “the ability of the local economy to absorb new workers without causing competition with local residents for job opportunities, displacing existing local workers, or adversely affecting the wages or working conditions of the local workforce.”

It also states that a local government can request a moratorium on new resettlement activities, by documenting that the community lacks the absorptive capacity and that further resettlement would result in an adverse impact to existing residents.

The bill passed the state house by a vote of 86-10 with passage in the Senate side by a vote of 22-9-1.

Of course the state Open Borders advocacy and lobbying group—the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition* (search RRW for them, we have written about them on many occasions)–calls the measure the “Refugees not welcome act.”

*For our Maryland readers this is the Tennessee equivalent to CASA de Maryland, except they are not as rich as CASA.

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