INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge in Indianapolis on Monday blocked Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s order barring state agencies from helping Syrian refugees resettle in Indiana, saying the order was discriminatory.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt comes in response to a request for a preliminary injunction from the group Exodus Refugee Immigration, which helps resettle refugees. Pratt wrote in her 36-page opinion that the governor’s directive “clearly discriminates against Syrian refugees based on their national origin.”
More than two dozen states, most with Republican governors, have taken similar action to suspend Syrian resettlement programs.
Pence had cited concerns following the deadly Paris terrorist attacks when issuing the order in November. He noted that a passport found near one of the suicide bombers had been registered along the route asylum seekers from Syria are taking through Europe.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit in November on behalf of Exodus Refugee Immigration, which said at the time that it expected to settle about 19 Syrians in the coming months who had been vetted by the U.S. government. The group said Pence’s order would hurt aid groups by withholding reimbursements for housing and medical care made by them to assist Syrian refugees.
The ACLU’s lawsuit accuses the state of violating the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act by accepting refugees from other countries but not from Syria.
Judge Pratt noted at a February hearing on the request for a preliminary injunction that Indiana had no actual ability to prevent Syrian refugees from entering the state.
“How does not paying the claims for those services protect the state?” Pratt asked Indiana Solicitor General Thomas M. Fisher.
Fisher replied that the goal was to remove incentives for Exodus Refugee Immigration and other groups to resettle Syrians in the state.
ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk said at the hearing that the group had resettled four Syrian refugees in the state during January and had expected to resettle more this year.