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Court of Appeals rules against Pence blocking funding to help Syrian refugees resettle in Indiana

Posted at 1:57 PM, Oct 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-03 18:55:07-04

CHICAGO -- A federal court of appeals says Ind. Gov. Mike Pence cannot block funding to help refugees from Syria resettle in Indiana.

That opinion handed down Monday afternoon by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

In the ruling, Judge Richard Posner says Indiana, “provides no evidence that Syrian terrorists are posing as refugees or that Syrian refugees have ever committed acts of terrorism in the United States.”

“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,” Posner wrote.

He also likened trying to forbid refugees to trying "to forbid black people to settle in Indiana."

Posner wrote: 

He argues that his policy of excluding Syrian refugees is based not on nationality and thus is not discriminatory, but is based solely on the threat he thinks they pose to the safety of residents of Indiana.
But that’s the equivalent of his 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 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. No evidence of this belief has been presented, however; it is nightmare speculation.

Judge Posner also wrote the Court of Appeals decision throwing out Indiana’s ban on same sex marriage in 2014.

Gov. Pence announced the ban on funding to Syrian refugees in November 2015, after the terrorist attacks in Paris.

RELATED | Indiana sees Syrian refugee stream since Pence order blocked

Pence has said his job is “first and foremost to protect Hoosiers” from a potential terrorist attack.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Pence released this statement regarding the 7th Circuit Court ruling:

The safety and security of the people of Indiana is Governor Pence's highest priority. The state of Indiana took decisive action last year to suspend resettlement of Syrian refugees after the terrorist attack in Paris and because the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged security gaps with regard to screening refugees from Syria. In addition, as recently as September 21, the State Department spokesman is quoted as saying he 'wouldn't debate the fact that there's the potential for ISIS terrorists to try to insert themselves' into the refugee program.

The ACLU of Indiana says the ruling is a victory, "The Court of Appeals' decision underscores what we have said throughout this litigation. Governor Pence may not constitutionally or legally discriminate against a particular nationality of refugees that are extensively vetted by the federal government," said Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana.

"A court has once again rejected Indiana's efforts to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees. This ruling is a stinging rebuke of Governor Mike Pence's anti-refugee actions," said Omar Jadwat, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project.

A federal judge in Indianapolis had previously ordered the state to continue funding for Syrian refugee resettlement.

Indiana could still appeal the ruling on this preliminary injunction to the full Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court