Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Lee said Tuesday that he had been informed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that the agency would be transporting “multiple busloads” of illegal aliens to the Volunteer State to await trial.
Lee said the agency informed him on Monday and called the move “irresponsible.” It is unclear where the detainees will be housed or how many are expected to arrive, but Lee did confirm they would be coming from New Orleans.
“We’ve been informed by ICE that they plan to release single adult detainees into Tennessee while they await court proceedings. This is irresponsible and a threat to the safety of Tennesseans,” Lee said in a statement. “It’s not compassionate to perpetuate a problem that leads to more exploitation and trafficking.”
Lee said he would demand that the Biden administration reverse course.
“This crisis is too big to ignore, and the only way to stop it is to secure the border,” he said. “Placing the burden on states is not a solution, and we should not bear the brunt of the federal government’s failures.”
Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty, both Republicans representing Tennessee, also condemned the plan, with Blackburn accusing the Biden administration of “trafficking illegal immigrants into communities across the country.”
Hagerty referenced the deadly fentanyl being trafficked over the border and the sheer number of unlawful crossings that have occurred in 2022.
“In the last year, nearly three million migrants have illegally entered the country — a population larger than the largest four cities of Tennessee combined — Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, and Chattanooga,” Hagerty said. “This does not even include the number of ‘gotaway’ migrants who illegally crossed into our country undetected.”
Tennessee GOP Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti said his office would explore all options to halt the plan.
Tennessee was one of the states that pushed to extend Title 42, a Trump-era policy allowing migrants to be turned away based on concerns over COVID. The rule, which was set to expire on Wednesday, was allowed to be extended when the Supreme Court put a temporary hold on its termination.
Customs and Border Protection officials warned lawmakers that approximately 50,000 foreigners were waiting to cross into the United States once Title 42 ended.