Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee approved a refugee resettlement agreement with the Trump Administration on Wednesday.
President Donald Trump issued an executive order in September, giving states until December 25th to opt in or out of the program. Lee opted Tennessee into the program in a letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.
“The United States and Tennessee have always been, since the very founding of our nation, a shining beacon of freedom and opportunity for the persecuted and oppressed, particularly those suffering religious persecution,” Lee said in a statement. “My administration has worked extensively to determine the best outcome for Tennessee, and I will consent to working with President Trump and his administration to responsibly resettle refugees.”
Lee said his commitment to this is based on his faith, “personally visiting refugee camps on multiple continents, and my years of experience ministering to refugees here in Tennessee.”
In a second letter to Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and Speaker of the Tennessee House, Cameron Sexton, Lee said public safety is of the “utmost importance.” He noted that the Trump Administration has “strengthened the vetting process of those entering the U.S.,” through heightened security screenings around terrorism, violent crime, fraud, and public health concerns.
“Border security, reducing illegal immigration, and upholding the rule of law are critical, and so it is important to note that each and every refugee that might potentially be resettled in Tennessee under the President's executive order have been individually approved by the Trump Administration for legal immigrant status,” Lee wrote.
Lee said the refugee population in Tennessee is small, and believes that “our consent to cooperate and consult with the Trump Administration to provide a safe harbor for those who are fleeing religious persecution and violent conflict is the right decision.”
“For over 30 years, Tennesseans have lived up to our most sacred ideals by welcoming those who are seeking safety through supporting the resettlement of refugees,” Teatro said. “Communities across the state are ready and willing to accept more refugees. We thank Governor Lee for this moral clarity and leadership in making his decision today.”