Columns

ACLU of Indiana Sues to Open Hoosier Doors to Syrians

Two Christian Football Teams Pray The Lord's Prayer Together Before the Championship Game, Twitter Image from @timeulerII

The constitutional and legal questions of whether state governors can stop the Obama administration from resettling refugees in their neighborhoods could be settled in federal court, thanks to a family of three that fled Syria and worked for four years to move to Indianapolis.

Gov. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) doesn’t want them. He’s not alone. More than two dozen U.S. governors signed a letter to the Obama administration saying they didn’t want anything to do with Syrian refugees after the November ISIS attacks in Paris.

“We are deeply concerned that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria may have exploited the generosity of the refugee system to carry out [the] terrorist attack in Paris,” the 27 governors wrote.

“In the wake of this recent tragedy, and until we can ensure the citizens of our states that an exhaustive review of all security measures has been completed and the necessary changes have been implemented, we respectfully request that you suspend all plans to resettle additional Syrian refugees.”

He might have been one of the 27, but so far Pence is the only one to face a court challenge because he moved to block that Syrian family’s move to Indianapolis in mid-November after the ISIS attacks.

It’s not that Pence has a problem with this family. It’s just that he’d rather be safe than sorry when it comes to protecting the Hoosier State from ISIS terrorists who might be smuggled in under the cover of refugee resettlement.

As a result, the state’s Division of Family Resources has told Catholic Charities of Indianapolis and Exodus Refugee Immigration to take Indiana off the list of places to which Syrians might be resettled.

“History will judge us in this moment — whether we take the moral stand for victims of war and persecution in their time of need or reject our core principles by giving in to fear and terror,” said Carleen Miller, executive director of Exodus Refugee Immigration.

Beyond that, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana not only considers Pence’s decision to be tragically and morally reprehensible, the group considers it to be unconstitutional and illegal.

So, the ACLU, on behalf of Exodus Immigration Refugee Immigration, has filed suit against Pence in federal court to block his blockade of the Syrians and any other group of refugee that the Hoosiers might be afraid of.

“There is no border around the state of Indiana that prevents people from entering our state who may move freely within the United States,” said ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk.

“Decisions concerning immigration and refugee resettlement are exclusively the province of the federal government, and attempts to pre-empt that authority violate both equal protection and civil rights laws and intrude on authority that is exclusively federal,” he added.

Judy Rabinovitz, deputy legal director of ACLU’s immigrants’ rights project, said her lawyers decided to “call Gov. Pence on his unconstitutional bluff.”

“He does not have the power to pick and choose between which lawfully admitted refugees he is willing to accept. Singling out Syrian refugees for exclusion from Indiana is not only ethically wrong, it is unconstitutional. Period.”

Pence administration spokeswoman Kara Brooks said the ACLU and Exodus are not only underestimating Gov. Pence’s resolve on the matter of the Syrian refugees, they have failed to understand his motivation.

“The governor believes that public safety is not a partisan issue,” Brooks said. “A bipartisan majority of governors have taken similar actions. Last week, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to pause the entry of Syrian refugees until proper security screening measures are implemented.”

“The governor believes that caution and compassion are not mutually exclusive. We can take measures to ensure the security of our nation even while we continue to extend support and refuge to people around the world fleeing from the ravages of hardship and war.”

“The governor will not reverse course until the Administration and Congress take action to pause this program and implement measures necessary to address security gaps acknowledged by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security,” Brooks added.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D) is on the side of the ACLU, Exodus Immigration, and the Syrian refugees.

And Malloy is willing to put his state where his mouth is.

Malloy told reporters that he’d be glad to welcome the Syrian family blockaded from Indiana. Depending on what legal action might occur between now and then, the family is scheduled to move to Connecticut Dec. 10.

“It is the right thing, the humane thing to do,” Malloy said. “Quite frankly, if you believe in God, it’s the morally correct thing to do.”