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Federal Court Rejects Pence’s Ban of Syrian Refugees in Indiana

barbed-wire-1670222_640Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s bid to keep Syrian refugees out of the state was blocked by a federal court of appeals this week. The three-judge panel of the 7th circuit ruled unanimously that Pence’s decision to deny reimbursement for resettlement of refugees was in violation of federal law by discriminating on the basis of nationality.

Court Finds Pence’s Concerns a “Nightmare Speculation”

Last year, the Republican vice presidential candidate suspended Indiana agencies’ involvement in the relocation of Syrian refugees following the Paris attacks on November 19, 2015. This week, the federal appeals court claims that Pence’s security concerns regarding the refugees are simply “nightmare speculation” and based on no actual evidence.

“The governor of Indiana believes, though without evidence, that some of these persons were sent to Syria by ISIS to engage in terrorism and now wish to infiltrate the United States in order to commit terrorist acts here,” wrote Judge Richard Posner, one of the judges on the panel.

“As far as can be determined from public sources, no Syrian refugees have been arrested or prosecuted for terrorist acts or attempts in the United States. And if Syrian refugees do pose a terrorist threat, implementation of the governor’s policy would simply increase the risk of terrorism in whatever states Syrian refugees were shunted to,” Posner added. “Federal law does not allow a governor to deport to other states immigrants he deems dangerous; rather he should communicate his fears to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.”

Pence’s Move to Ban Syrian Refugees Called “Discriminatory” by Federal Court

The appeals court also criticizes Pence’s claim that selectively blocking Syrian refugees is not discriminatory.

Posner wrote, “That’s the equivalent of [Pence] saying (not that he does say) that he wants to forbid black people to settle in Indiana not because they’re black but because he’s afraid of them, and since race is therefore not his motive he isn’t discriminating. But that of course would be racial discrimination, just as his targeting Syrian refugees is discrimination on the basis of nationality.”

The court’s ruling is a victory for a private resettlement agency named Exodus. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the president is able to determine the number of refugees to be admitted in the country annually. In 2016, the fixed number is 85,000. 10,000 out of the 85,000 come from Syria. In order to receive federal money, a state submits a plan to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. A state then contracts with a private agency for the provision of social services.

Pence refused to pay Exodus for the services for any refugee who came from Syria. With the court’s ruling, Exodus can now provide assistance to the Syrian refugees.

If you need legal assistance with your immigration status, do not hesitate to contact Lyttle Law Firm. You may visit our website for more information, or call us at 512-215-5225.