A federal court has struck down a law in Indiana designed to prevent Syrian refugees from resettling, saying it’s unconstitutional and blatant discrimination based on national origin. Governor Mike Pence and his lawyers say it’s necessary to keep the citizens of Indiana safe, and they will appeal to a higher court.
The Obama administration said back in late 2015 the U.S. would accept about 10,000 refugees from Syria. Then in November, suicide bombers attacked Paris killing about 130 people, souring views about the resettlement plans.
Indiana, for example, created a law to freeze federal funds specifically to help Syrian refugees resettle. Exodus Refugee Immigration Inc., a group working to help the refugees, sued the state, saying it needed the earmarked money for employment services and administrative costs. The organization has resettled four Syrian refugees so far, according to the AP, but plans to take in another 200 in 2016.
They claimed Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s orders violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“When the Governor speaks of Syrian refugees, he speaks of refugees whose country of origin is Syria because the situation in that country not only is inspiring terrorism, but also makes it impossible to determine which purported refugees might really be terrorists. The directive is designed to protect Indiana residents’ safety, not to discriminate based on race, ethnicity or nationality.”
The defendants also said Indiana acknowledged that they have no authority to block Syrian refugees from entering the state.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt decided the case in favor of Exodus, admitting that the state had a compelling interest in protecting the people of Indiana, but the law “in no way furthers the state’s asserted interest in the safety of Indiana residents.”
“In the end, the State tries to complicate a question that is rather straightforward. It is treating refugees who originate from Syria differently than those from other countries. If this is not national origin discrimination, the Court does not know what is….
“In sum, Exodus has shown a strong likelihood of success that the State’s challenged conduct constitutes unconstitutional discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Such an ongoing constitutional violation constitutes irreparable harm.”
The judge added that Indiana may not have directly tried to fight the President’s order, but that freezing the funds effectively had the same result.
The Indiana governor released a statement afterwards, saying that he stood by his decision and the state would appeal.
Kenneth J. Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, praised the ruling, calling it the first of its kind against a state’s effort to resistance the President’s refugee orders, although the fight is already well under way in Texas, as previously reported by the Inquisitr.
There are similar legal battles in Pennsylvania and Alabama.
Judge Pratt’s full ruling on the Indiana law to prevent Syrian refugees from resettling can be found here.
[Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images]