Gov. Mike Pence instructed the Attorney General to seek an immediate stay and appeal of a district court’s order of a preliminary injunction of his withholding of assistance to Syrian refugees resettling in Indiana.
U.S. District Court Judge Tonya Walton Pratt ruled Monday in favor of Exodus Refugee Immigration in its complaint against the governor for his decree to deny access to assistance for Syrian refugees. In her decision, Pratt stated that, “The State’s conduct clearly discriminates against Syrian refugees based on their national origin.”
The ACLU of Indiana and the national American Civil Liberties Union represented the local non-profit agency in its lawsuit against Pence and the director of the Family and Social Services Administration. Exodus challenged Pence’s directive to all state agencies to withhold federal grant funds to all refugee resettlement agencies for social services directed toward Syrian refugees attempting to settle in Indiana. Pence also requested Exodus and Catholic Charities to stop settling Syrian refugees in Indiana for security reasons.
"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,” said Pence following the release of the court’s 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."
In her decision, Pratt determined Pence’s position was one of discrimination. “Although the State says it has a compelling reason for doing so — the safety of Indiana residents — the withholding of federal funds from Exodus that it would use to provide social services to Syrian refugees in no way furthers the State’s asserted interest in the safety of Indiana residents.”
Exodus’s lawsuit, filed in November, sought an injunction to stop the governor from taking any actions to suspend, block or withhold aid from refugees or from Exodus.