INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 8, 2015) – Indiana’s Roman Catholic archbishop said his group welcomed a Syrian refugee family into Indiana despite Gov. Mike Pence’s request not to do so.
Archbishop Joseph Tobin released a statement Tuesday saying he “listened to the governor’s concerns regarding security and prayerfully considered his request,” but had welcomed a family of Syrian refugees to the state. The family arrived in Indianapolis Monday night, according to Tobin.
During a news conference Tuesday night, Pence said he won’t block state aid for the family, like food stamps and health care.
“No intention of interfering with the ordinary administrative of state government relative to people who are legally in the state of Indiana,” he said.
But Pence added his order remains in full effect, citing the most recent testimony from the head of the Homeland Security committee, revealing Islamic extremists have considered using the refugee program to enter the U.S.
“This is not about this family and it certainly is not about these wonderful charities that work every day with the state of Indiana,” Pence said. “This is about public safety. It`s not about identifying individuals on the basis of nationality.”
Tobin said the family fled Syria three years ago to escape from violence. He said the family went through two years of extensive security checks and interviews before being approved to enter the U.S.
From Tobin’s statement:
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis was asked to help resettle this family through its regular participation in a program that is a public-private partnership between the federal government and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and its Migration and Refugee Services.
For 40 years the Archdiocese’s Refugee and Immigrant Services has welcomed people fleeing violence in various regions of the world. This is an essential part of our identity as Catholic Christians and we will continue this life-saving tradition.
Tobin met with Gov. Pence for about an hour Wednesday to discuss the refugee situation. Pence suspended the relocation of Syrian refugees to Indiana in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris. Pence said he wanted Congress to examine immigration policy and approve new legislation regarding refugees.
“This is about an administration and congress that should take decisive action to pause this program,” Pence said Tuesday.
Governor Pence’s spokesperson Matt Lloyd issued this statement Tuesday in response to Tobin:
“The governor holds Catholic Charities in the highest regard but respectfully disagrees with their decision to place a Syrian refugee family in Indiana at this time.
Prior to the terrorist attacks in Paris, which involved a Syrian refugee as one of the attackers, the Obama Administration’s own FBI Director said there are ‘gaps’ in the Syrian refugee resettlement program.
Yesterday, the Chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee stated that ‘The U.S. government has information to indicate that individuals tied to terrorist groups in Syria have already attempted to gain access to our country through the U.S. refugee program.’
Despite these facts, the Administration continues to ignore calls from governors of both parties, as well as a bipartisan majority in the U.S. House, to pause and strengthen the program.
The safety and security of the people of Indiana is Governor Pence’s top priority. The State of Indiana will continue to suspend its participation in the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana until the federal government takes action to address the concerns raised about this program.”