Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Pence, step away from the Syrian refugees

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 12:34 PM


As a younger, less sophisticated man, I was employed as a counselor at the Indiana Boys School. I left that job 20 years ago, but the lessons I learned trying to help my young criminals in that juvenile prison continue to help me in the world of politics today.

Go figure.

One of the most common "teaching moments" a counselor gets is when the child is faced with conflict. Any kind of conflict will do. The challenges and opportunities created by conflict are invaluable to any young person's growth.

The same rules apply to politicians. And the faster a politician learns from the teaching moments given to them, the more successful he or she will ultimately become.

So let's talk about Gov. Mike Pence and the Syrian refugee battle that he is losing in embarrassing fashion. As a counselor, my advice to the governor would be simple — walk away. His refusal to acknowledge that he has lost the fight that he picked is a statement about his character. The American people don't seem to be aware of this fatal flaw, no matter how hard I try to draw attention to it.

To review, on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 the terror attacks on Paris occurred. In response, on Monday, Nov. 16, more than 20 governors across our great land attempted to suspend, eliminate or block Syrian refugee programs in their states under the guise of "security." No meaningful suggestions on security have been made by this bunch, though.

Gov. Pence joined the herd of sheep on this one, and as if it were on cue, he did it while a Syrian family was en route to Indiana. As a result of his almost-trademark bad timing, our state was once again the national leader of intolerance and fear.

In the coming days and weeks, we learned that state government had acted outside of its authority on this one. Pence had not vetted the authority of the state program, in the midst of his haste to complain about the federal government's inadequate vetting.

It was obvious early on that he was on the wrong legal side of this situation, and the series of court defeats have been predictable. In December of 2015, even Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin publicly announced his plan that the archdiocese would continue to resettle families here. Exodus Immigration has also continued its work, and more than 170 Syrian families have been settled since this regrettable example of politics began.

You see, the State of Indiana does not get to decide whether refugees are placed here. Not one, but two federal courts have now ruled that way. The ruling this week was a shameful scolding of the state, featuring quotes from 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner like, "You're so out of it!" This comes on the heels of a 36-page order issued by Judge Tanya Pratt in February that read like a drill sergeant speaking to the troops on the first day of boot camp.

Governor, the battle is over. Though I can identify a list of opportunities over the past 10 months where you could have, and should have, walked away from this loser, it is now obviously the end of the road.

And then, I read in horror the statement provided by his spokesperson, Kara Brooks on Thursday following the court's ruling. It read in part:

"The Pence 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."

Uh, you already tried that.

And you lost, big.


The only legal means you have is to withdraw from the federal program. That of course doesn't "block" resettlement; it simply removes state government from being a part of the resettlement. Judging by recent history, I'm not sure the state's involvement has proven vital anyway. But, other than that, this fight is over.

America, there is a man on the Republican ticket that cannot admit it when he has lost. A man who won't acknowledge when the public disagrees with him. A man who does not respect the authority of the judicial branch of the federal government.

And on this one, it is not Donald Trump. It is Governor Mike Pence.

Excuse the analogy between crime and politics here. Some of the criminals I used to counsel early in my career would look at this column and laugh. Many of them would say that I always taught them to look for the way out of any conflict early so they would know later where it is when they absolutely needed it.

They were a captive audience, so they listened to me even when they didn't want to.

Our governor doesn't want to listen either. Maybe the electorate will.

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Michael Leppert

Michael Leppert

Michael Leppert is a public and governmental affairs consultant in Indianapolis and writes his thoughts about politics, government and anything else that strikes him at

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