ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) — Governor Bill Lee’s trip to the Tri-Cities to announce a $1 million grant to the Elizabethton TCAT was met with some controversy.
“He is not acting as a Tennessean,” said protester Elizabeth Cox. “We have homeless and veterans that are sleeping under boxcars and under bridges and freezing to death. We don’t need to look out for foreigners first.”
Just before Christmas, Lee announced that Tennessee will continue resettling refugees under an option offered to states by President Donald Trump’s administration.
“I certainly know that was the right decision to make but people disagree oftentimes around a lot of issues but I think we’ve long been a country that has been a harbor for those who have been persecuted,” said Lee.
Gov. Lee says he trusts President Trump’s decision to allow states the option of whether or not to accept refugees.
“President Trump- I trust him. I trust his process for this refugee resettlement process. He has minimized it and put in place security measures that are really important,” said Lee. “He has retained the tenth amendment rights that are so important to me. He’s letting states decide instead of the federal government telling states what to do.”
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Those protesting his visit say Lee made the wrong choice.
“He not only accepted them, he applied for them,” said Cox. “Our president had given the option for each state to make a choice and he specifically applied for them.”
That decision was met with some push back from fellow lawmakers.
“The legislature has said we didn’t like it and we’ll continue to work with him on this and other issues,” said Rep. David Hawk (R). “That’s an area we just disagree.”
But Senator Rusty Crowe (R) says it is a conversation that won’t resurface until the legislative session starts later this month.
“Hopefully there is a way to make him happy, his heart is wanting to help people, especially some of the Christian folks that are being persecuted coming here and at the same time, we want to make sure the state is totally safe and we have the right people coming in, not the wrong people coming in,” Crowe said.
Those outside the announcement just hope he saw the message.
“We just like to show him the message, tell him that we’re disappointed in his decisions and what he’s done,” said protester Joel Decamp.