Wednesday, August 12, 2020
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Commission Approves No Consent Refugee Resolution

The Putnam County Commission on Tuesday approved a resolution of “No Consent to Refugee Resettlement.”

District 1 Commissioner Kevin Christopher joined eight other elected officials in voting against the resolution. He said the commission should spend their time discussing more important matters.

“All that time under President Obama, we had no refugees in Putnam County,” Christopher said. “All that time he was letting in at least 50,000 refugees a year, (there was) not a single refugee in Putnam County. Now that President Trump is continuing to reduce that cap, we’re even less likely to receive a refugee in Putnam County. There’s no point to this resolution. None.”

In fact, a total of three refugees have relocated to Putnam County in the past 10 years. State Refugee Coordinator Holly Johnson said all three of those refugees arrived in 2010. Johnson said the state received less than 700 refugees last year with less than 200 expected to arrive this year.

“The resettlement agencies are in Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Memphis,” Johnson told the county commission on Monday. “Refugees would not be resettled all the way out here (Putnam County) because that’s not a drive that a case worker wants to make every day back-and-forth. Refugees are resettled in areas where they have families or right around the resettlement agencies.”

A number of counties have taken up the resolution after President Trump’s executive order allowing state and local governments to reject refugees from resettling in their jurisdictions. Governor Bill Lee announced late last year that Tennessee would continue to accept refugees. Since that time, a federal judge has blocked the Trump administration from enforcing the executive order. Putnam County Attorney Jeff Jones noted that the county’s resolution had no “legal teeth” to it.

“Basically, what you guys do tonight can’t override federal law,” Jones said. “I trust that all of you understand that this is just a statement of philosophy, as opposed to having any real legal significance.”

Although the resolution has no legal significance, District 7 Commissioner Andrew Donadio said he had to listen to the people who voted for him.

“Even as it’s going through the courts, our position is our position,” Donadio said. “If somebody is doing something to me that I don’t like, I want to make sure that they know that I’m not liking it. That’s what’s going on here. ”

Commissioners voting for the resolution included, District 1 Commissioner Jonathan Williams, District 3 Commissioners Jerry Ford and Jordan Iwanyszyn, District 4 Commissioners Theresa Tayes and Jerry Roberson, District 5 Commissioner Terry Randolph, District 6 Commissioner Adam Johnson, District 7 Commissioners Andrew Donadio and Grover Bennett, District 9 Commissioners Dale Moss and Jimmy Neal, District 10 Commissioners Kim Bradford and Joe Iwanyszyn.

It should be noted that the commission voted down a motion to defer the resolution until the legal battle at the federal level concludes. That motion failed with 12 no votes and 10 yes votes.