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Syrian refugee family diverted from Indianapolis: We felt rejected, we were depressed

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Downtown Indianapolis

NEW HAVEN (Nov. 21, 2015) – Days after being diverted from Indianapolis to Connecticut, a Syrian refugee family is expressing disbelief in a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and more than two dozen other governors, issued orders banning any new Syrian refugees from entering their states in wake of the terror attacks in Paris.

“Look, the bottom line, we don’t know who these people are,” Pence told FOX 59 in an interview, shortly after issuing the order Monday.

The 33-year-old Syrian father of a four-year-old, along with his 23-year-old wife, talked to The New York Times through an interpreter, asking they only be identified by their first initial, still fearful for their safety. The family fled Syria in 2011 and have been seeking resettlement to the U.S. from Jordan.

“One person’s decision, the governor’s decision, doesn’t reflect all of Indiana’s decision,” the father known as A. told the newspaper. “Maybe the governor is going to reflect and find in himself that he had made a mistake and come back and see the light.”

Pence has defended the decision, calling it a pause, until the federal government can ensure security checks are rigorous enough to protect Americans. While governors cannot stop refugees from entering the United States, they can stop critical aid within their state. On Friday Pence joined 26 other governors in signing a letter to Pres. Barack Obama urging him to review the country’s refugee resettlement program.

“My heart goes out to this family and other families who have been caught up in the humanitarian crisis of the Syrian regime,” Pence said on CNN. “It’s just simply as Congress did…we said it’s time to take a pause.”

The family told the newspaper they had spent time researching Indianapolis, connecting with other refugee families awaiting their arrival.

“We felt rejected,” A. said. “We were depressed. How could that be the freedoms that we hear about?”

Carleen Miller, executive director of the Indianapolis-based Exodus Refugee Immigration, made the decision to divert the family, fearful state services like food aid and Medicaid would be eliminated.

“It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do since I’ve been here for eight years,” she said.

On Wednesday, Connecticut’s governor personally welcomed the family.

“I think it’s the right thing, the humane thing to do,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said. “Quite frankly if you believe in God, it’s the morally correct thing to do.”

The family is now being assisted by Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services in New Haven.

“You have relieved our burden,” A. said of his new home state. “What happened was better, because we feel very welcomed.”