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How did Pence get here? From Syrian refugee bans to denouncing of Muslim restrictions

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Posted at 4:59 PM, Jan 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-29 18:43:29-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- Long before former Indiana Governor Mike Pence even had a sniff of the White House, before Donald Trump had locked up the GOP presidential nomination and before Pence took the oath of office, he found himself ensnared in an American identity crisis much the same that President Trump's recent executive order banning citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries has brought to the political table.

In November of 2015, tragedy erupted in Paris as one of the worst global terror attacks since 9/11 claimed the lives of 130 and injured hundreds more in a calculated and coordinated attack by members of ISIS.

As information about the attacks trickled out, it surfaced that one of the attackers was a Syrian national, a country embroiled in civil war and genocide with a strong ISIS presence. 

Pence, emboldened by the information, issued an order to suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana, noting that his "first responsibility is protecting Hoosiers."

Pence said at the time:

"Indiana has a long tradition of opening our arms and homes to refugees from around the world but, as governor, my first responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of all Hoosiers. Unless and until the state of Indiana receives assurances that proper security measures are in place, this policy will remain in full force and effect."

Pence wasn't alone. More than 20 other states joined the call in response to the uncertainty in Paris. 

Soon after the order, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the governor, much in the same way that they did against President Donald Trump's executive order this past weekend. 

As the rhetoric escalated, then-GOP presidential candidate Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Pence, having no solidified relationship with Trump at the time, refuted the notion to that degree and despite his own Syrian ban, tweeted this:

Flash forward a few months, and a U.S. District Court judge offered a scathing rebuke of Pence's Syrian refugee ban, calling it "unconstitutional discrimination." Months later, an appeals court judge agreed.

Pence stood by his decision and position on the matter, saying it was an effort to protect Hoosiers until gaps in Syrian refugee screenings could be closed by the federal government. 

Pence went on to formalize his support for then GOP-presidential candidate Ted Cruz over Trump in the May Indiana primary, only to see himself days after the results in conversations with Trump at the governor's residence on Meridian Street about his future in public service.

Flash forward again, to present day. Vice President Pence stood by President Trump as he signed the executive order to ban citizens from entering the country for 90 days from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“I'm establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States,” Trump said from a podium at the Pentagon. “We don't want 'em here.”

Pence nodded along, almost as if the above tweet, a direct rebuke of Trump's previous stance, never existed. 

He began clapping as Trump handed the order over when he was done signing it.

Hop in the Way Back Machine one more time, to October 2016 after Pence had been on the campaign trail with Trump for several months. When asked on CNN about Pence's silence of his former criticisms of Trump, specifically as it pertains to the Muslim ban rhetoric, Pence stated “It's not Donald Trump's position now.”

Back to present day one more time: Supporters of the executive order, and Trump himself, refute that it is a full "Muslim ban" since it targets specific countries, and not religion.

But critics say that's just rhetoric since not only does the order only affect Muslim-majority countries, but it also gives preferential treatment to Christians and other religions with the establishment of a religious test, according to the New York Times.

A federal judge blocked Trump's executive order one day after it was signed. 

Judge Ann Donnelly, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, wrote in her decision that government could not remove "individuals with refugee applications approved by US Citizenship and Immigration Services as part of the US Refugee Admissions Program, holders of valid immigrant and non-immigrant visas, and other individuals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen legally authorized to enter the United States."

Pence has been down this road before, only now the stakes are higher than they've ever been for the Columbus native.

INFORMAL POLL | Majority of Hoosiers in sample poll support Pres. Trump's executive order