A panel of three federal appeals court judges on Monday declined to block a preliminary injunction against Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the Republican vice presidential nominee, to keep him from withholding funds from refugee resettlement agencies.
Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that Pence’s action “targeting Syrian refugees is discrimination on the basis of nationality.”
Posner, a well known and oft-cited judge, wrote the opinion for the panel including Judges Frank Easterbrook and Diane Sykes. He compared Pence’s decision to single out Syrian refugees to racial discrimination against blacks.
“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 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,” Posner wrote. “But that of course would be racial discrimination, just as his targeting Syrian refugees is discrimination on the basis of nationality.”
Following the terrorist attacks in Paris last year, Pence directed state agencies to stop the resettlement of refugees from Syria, citing security concerns. The governor’s directive prompted Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc., to redirect a Syrian refugee family to Connecticut at the last minute and to later sue the governor to keep him from withholding funds from refugee resettlement agencies.
The federal district court had previously granted a preliminary injunction blocking Pence’s move. The state of Indiana appealed that decision to the 7th Circuit, which issued its decision Monday.
Pence had said that he needed “assurances that proper security measures are in place” from the federal government before the state could accept Syrian refugees again.
In his opinion, Posner argued that Pence’s fears about refugees from Syria were unfounded.
“[T]he brief provides no evidence that Syrian terrorists are posing as refugees or that Syrian refugees have ever committed acts of terrorism in the United States. Indeed, 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,” he wrote.