The Tennessee General Assembly’s Study Committee on Refugee Issues held its first hearing July 13, and details revealed by witnesses who testified were highly disturbing.

My take-away from the first hearing was that human trafficking is being conducted by the government unbeknownst to taxpayers, and taxpayers are being forced to pay for it.

At the end of May, the 10-member committee was formed by the legislature and, being one of the most vocal opponents of illegal immigration and refugee resettlement at the capitol, I was appointed by Speaker Cameron Sexton.

Those who presented at the hearing were U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, the executive director of the Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee and members of the governor’s administration, including Chief Operating Officer Brandon Gibson, Director of Legislation Brent Easley and Department of Children’s Services (DCS) Commissioner Jennifer Nichols.

If it were not for the media reporting refugees getting off planes and buses in Tennessee this past May, we would have no idea what was happening right here in our very own state.

To this day, we, in Tennessee, have no idea exactly how many refugees have been dumped in our state by the federal government, because the federal government is refusing to communicate this information.

We all know that the federal government, particularly under the current administration, is not an honest broker, but I expected a little more from the governor and his administration.

We all know that in December 2019, after President Donald Trump provided states with a choice to opt out of receiving refugees, Gov. Bill Lee openly embraced refugees and announced that Tennessee would continue accepting them.

What I don’t think many Tennesseans realize is that, shortly thereafter, in May 2020, Nichols’ DCS provided a license to the Baptiste Group in Hamilton County to open a Residential Child Care Agency (RCCA) for the sole stated purpose of housing unaccompanied alien children under contract with the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Lee’s administration certainly didn’t notify the legislature about this, knowing that Tennessee (at the initiation of the legislature) had a lawsuit pending against the federal government in an effort to stop refugee resettlement in our state.

Another interesting piece of information revealed during last week’s hearing, through testimony provided by Nichols, is that in addition to the Baptiste Group, another company by the name of Bethany Christian Services has been operating a child placement agency in Davidson County under licensure by the governor’s administration to assist in finding foster homes for unaccompanied alien children through contract with the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Neither I nor most (if not all) of my fellow legislative committee members had any idea about this operation, and I doubt most Tennesseans do. Tennesseans deserve to know about this.

Not only has Lee’s office not been open and disclosive to the legislature or Tennessee citizens on this issue, but also when questioned by the committee during the hearing, members of the governor’s administration were unable to answer many questions or provide much information, with “I’m unaware” or “I don’t know” being standard responses to a number of questions. In fact, one legislative member asked whether Lee’s office has made any efforts to track where the planes bringing refugees into Tennessee are coming from and where they are going.

Gibson said this had not been done, at which point the committee directed the governor’s office to do so.

One estimate discussed during the hearing was that of 1,775 unaccompanied alien children being brought to Tennessee between January and May of this year alone, and that only seven other states in the country are reported to have received more alien children than Tennessee. There is a reason behind this, and our committee intends to get to the bottom of it.

Another interesting fact that came out is that the unaccompanied alien children being brought into the state by the federal government fit into a narrow demographic.

The vast majority are males between the ages of 15 and 17. This is very telling, and there is a reason behind this as well.

In my opinion, they are viewed as a source of cheap labor, which big business and globalists such as George Soros want inasmuch as it increases their profits and helps their bottom line. Follow the money.

In relation to money, testimony was provided that the federal government awarded the Baptiste Group $39.03 million to house unaccompanied alien children since April 2019.

Additionally, there is a $12.2 million contract between the Baptiste Group and the Office of Refugee Resettlement. I want to hear from an executive at the Baptiste Group to find out how much they are profiting as a company on the backs of taxpayers and children.

What was certainly made clear is that Tennessee taxpayers pay dearly in many ways as a result of these refugee resettlement operations.

Krista Carsner, executive director of the legislative Fiscal Review Committee, testified that since 2015, 8,834 unaccompanied alien children have been brought into our state and Tennessee taxpayers pay millions of dollars to cover their TennCare and education costs alone.

The highest amount paid out in any one year was more than $14 million, and this was only for TennCare and education in a single year. These are just some of the costs.

All of the data is not available, so making any projections as to past and future financial impact to taxpayers and this state is impossible at this point.

We are only going to see these numbers continue to increase as the crisis at the border worsens and the number of aliens increases.

According to Carsner, the number of unaccompanied alien children referred to the Department of Health and Human Services in 2020 was 15,381 nationally.

That number has spiked dramatically under the Biden administration to 56,459 just through May 2021. If that number continues on the projected path, it will be 135,627 for 2021.

Just as the numbers are increasing exponentially on a national level, they are similarly exponentially increasing in Tennessee.

For example, 510 unaccompanied alien children were brought to Tennessee by the federal government in 2020, and, in 2021, just through May, there already have been 1,775 brought into our state.

If that continues at the same pace, Tennessee will end up receiving 4,260 unaccompanied alien children in 2021. Increased numbers mean increased expenditures of Tennessee taxpayer money.

The public should be made of aware of this and question it, because taxpaying Tennesseans are having to absorb these costs.

It effects our great state’s budget and bottom line, and it is the responsibility of the governor and the legislature to be good stewards of taxpayer money and ensure such money is spent in accordance with the will and opinion of Tennesseans, not that of the federal government seeking to force unwanted things on Tennesseans without their choice or consent.

We, as a legislature, need to send a message that Tennessee expects transparency and will not be pre-empted by the federal government.

We want our borders secured and we don’t want humans or drugs trafficked into our state by cartels or the federal government.

The legislative Study Committee on Refugee Issues will have its next hearing at 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 12, 2021 at the Capitol.

 

BRUCE GRIFFEY, R-Paris, represents the 75th District, which includes Henry County, in the Tennessee House of Representatives. His email is rep.bruce.griffey@capitol.tn.gov.

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