Matt Murphy Roasts Kerry Roberts For Illegal Immigration Voting Record

Image Credit: SuperTalk 99.7 WTN & & canva

The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –

Last week, Talk Show Host Matt Murphy held Senator Kerry Roberts’ feet to the fire over his actions or lack thereof regarding an illegal immigration bill.

After we reported that a commercial airline had possibly transported illegal aliens from New York to Memphis, Murphy spoke with Roberts on his show and asked him a number of questions regarding this year’s legislative session and one bill in particular sponsored by Representative Bryan Richey (R-Maryville-District 20) and Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald-District 28).

HB2078/SB2802 may have prevented the transportation of illegal aliens into the state by increasing the fine as dictated by current law from $1,000 to $5,000. In addition, bill sponsor Hensley said in a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on March 19th that the bill removed immunity for commercial carriers.

The Senate bill was shot down in the Senate Judiciary Committee when three Republicans – Senators Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga-District 10), Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol-District 4) and Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield-District 23) – voted against it along with two Democrats. 

Current law regarding the transportation of illegal aliens into the state – TCA 39-17-114 – has been on the books since 2008 and carves out two major exceptions for common carriers and “religious purposes” which gives Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) who resettle those with deferred status within the U.S. a defense against being prosecuted.

Roberts stated that no one has been charged under the current statute to date but said that the “larger problem” with Hensley’s bill was that there was no definition included for “illegal alien.”

“The problem is that term is not defined legally in Tennessee code, it’s not even defined in federal code,” said Roberts. “And so if you end up passing a law, which we already did admittedly, and you use a term that ultimately gets tested in court, do you really want a crazy liberal judge defining that term for us?”

But according to the statute, the determination as to whether an individual “has illegally entered or remained in the United States” is determined by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 

This DHS audit from Fiscal Year 2019 states that “removable aliens are persons who enter the United States illegally or entered legally and violated the terms of their immigration status” and defines aliens as “people who are not U.S. citizens or nationals.”

During the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on March 26th, however, Roberts did not bring up any concerns with the bill’s failure to legally define the term “illegal alien” with the bill’s sponsor.

Roberts told Murphy that Hensley’s bill was sent back “to the drawing board” because “it’s not the Senate Judiciary’s job to fix a bill that has problems” but that of the sponsor’s.

In response, Murphy rightly stated that “we see amendments happen in committee all the time.” 

In fact Senator Gardenhire offered an amendment to SB2802 on March 26th that he said was at the behest of supporters of the bill who asked for the penalty to be “so draconian” in order to punish those who would violate the law. To that end, Gardenhire’s amendment would have changed the current Class A misdemeanor and upgraded any violation to a Class A felony carrying the potential for 15 to 60 years in jail and up to $50,000 in fines.

Roberts then blamed “timing” for the bill’s inability to be passed this year.

“But you also have to think about the timing of the session. If you wait until the last calendar of the Judiciary Committee – because we’re in there January, February, March, April – if you wait until the end of April to run a bill, there’s no opportunity to go back to your office and work on it and come back,” said Roberts.

However, SB2802 was first placed on the Senate Judiciary Committee at the end of February, heard by the committee on March 19th, and subsequently killed the following week.

Roberts then suggested that Hensley may not have cared much about the bill in the first place.

When asked “Do you believe that the General Assembly can do more as a state to protect Tennesseans from illegal alien activity that might be criminal in nature?” Roberts replied, “Absolutely.”

Roberts insisted that while he may have been in favor of the bill ideologically, that its language had problems. “You’ve got to define the term illegal alien,” he said.

“Why didn’t you do that?” Murphy asked. “Why didn’t you define illegal alien?”

Roberts then offered a list of excuses which included insisting again that Hensley waited too long to do anything of real consequence with the bill, that he (Roberts) was doing his job “with a bunch of other bills” and that it was Hensley’s job to fix the bill before finally saying that passing the bill would not have had any effect on the transportation of illegal aliens into the state.

Murphy pointed out that upon passage of a bill, “You create a dynamic by which you force the federal government to defend their indefensible policies with regard to illegal immigration.”

In an increasingly heated exchange between the two, Murphy stated, “You had the opportunity in Judiciary to figure it out. You had the opportunity to protect the citizens of this state and the people who are legally here and you chose not to by playing word games so you could just pass on this bill.”

After more of the same excuses from Roberts, Murphy said, “You keep blaming Joey [Hensley], I’m blaming you. Why did you not amend the bill? You had the opportunity to amend it in Judiciary if you wanted to.”

Roberts again stated that it wasn’t his job and that he was busy passing a law that undid a 2022 statute that permitted those without legal immigration status to obtain state-issued commercial and professional licenses.

“I did something of consequence,” said Roberts. “Joey Hensley’s bill wasn’t going to change anything. It wasn’t going to stop a plane landing in Memphis, Tennessee.”

Listen to this episode of the Matt Murphy Show below –

About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at

One thought on “Matt Murphy Roasts Kerry Roberts For Illegal Immigration Voting Record

  • May 28, 2024 at 5:29 pm

    Kerry Roberts (TLRC-80/B-) is in an odd numbered district and this primary season it’s our chance to send a message to centrist/tepid conservative officeholders in even numbered districts by sending a nice big check to their primary opponents. In the case of Todd Gardenhire (67/B-) that would be Ed LeCompte


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