Judge blocks Gov. Pence’s order barring state agencies from helping Syrian refugees resettle
INDIANAPOLIS (February 29, 2016) — A federal judge in Indianapolis has blocked Governor Mike Pence’s order barring state agencies from helping Syrian refugees resettle in Indiana.
Monday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt comes in response to a request for a preliminary injunction from the group Exodus Refugee Immigration, which helps resettle refugees.
Pratt wrote in her 36-page opinion that the governor’s directive “clearly discriminates against Syrian refugees based on their national origin.”
The conclusion from the court documents is as follows:
Accordingly, Exodus’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction is GRANTED. (Filing No. 6.) Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(d), the Court ISSUES A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION prohibiting the State from taking any actions to interfere with or attempt to deter the resettlement of Syrian refugees by Exodus in the State of Indiana, including by withholding from Exodus funds and services due Exodus and the refugees it serves. Because the State has not disputed Exodus’s position that the State will not incur monetary damages from this injunction, Exodus need not post a bond.
More than two dozen states, most with Republican governors, have taken similar action to suspend Syrian resettlement programs.
Pence had cited concerns following the deadly Paris terrorist attacks when issuing the order in November. He’s noted a passport found near one of the suicide bombers had been registered along the route asylum seekers from Syria are taking through Europe.
The Indiana Democratic Party released the following statement, saying Governor Pence is trying to put ideology ahead of “Hoosier Hospitality.”
“Last fall, Mike Pence put his ideology first when he chose to bar funds from Syrian refugees who simply wanted a fresh start and a new place to call home. In turn, Pence not only embarrassed the state but also once again put Indiana’s coveted ‘Hoosier Hospitality’ reputation in jeopardy. Today’s ruling not only affirms Mike Pence is an ideologue, but also that he is not in touch with how Hoosiers feel about important issues affecting our state. Indiana needs a governor who will put commonsense and ‘The Golden Rule’ first – and not issues that only divide our state. This person is clearly not Mike Pence.”
ACLU of Indiana released the following statement after winning the preliminary injunction for exodus Refugee Immigration:
“We are extremely pleased by the decision,” said Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana. “The equal protection clause of the United States Constitution demands that all of the refugees who are extensively vetted and finally approved by the federal government be treated equally. Indiana was not, and now, pursuant to the trial court’s order, must do so.”
“This ruling puts the brakes on Governor Pence’s end run around the Constitution. No state can unilaterally ban a group of refugees that has been vetted and admitted by the federal government. By trying to block Syrian families based solely on their nationality, Indiana is flouting federal law, the U.S. Constitution, and our fundamental American values of providing refuge for families fleeing war and violence,” said Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
Governor Pence’s administration issued the following statement immediately after the ruling:
“As governor I have no higher priority than the safety and security of the people of Indiana. During these uncertain times, we must always err on the side of caution. For that reason, following the terrorist attack in Paris and the acknowledgment by the Director of the FBI that there are gaps in the screening for Syrian refugees, I suspended participation by the State of Indiana in the Syrian refugee resettlement program and I stand by that decision.
So long as the Obama administration continues to refuse to address gaps in the screening of Syrian refugees acknowledged by the FBI and a bipartisan majority in Congress, Hoosiers can be assured that my administration will continue to use every legal means available to suspend this program in Indiana unless and until federal officials take steps to ensure the safety and security of our citizens.”
Governor Pence has instructed the Office of the Indiana Attorney General to seek an immediate stay and appeal of this order.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.