Catholic Charities relocates Syrian family to Indiana despite Pence opposition 

click to enlarge Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
  • wikimedia commons


A Syrian family of four arrived in Indianapolis Monday night to begin their new life in the United States. The family was placed in Indiana by Catholic Charities, one of two entities in Indiana that work  to re-locate refugees in the Hoosier state.

According to a statement from Joseph Tobin, Archbishop for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, the family fled the violence of terrorists in Syria and has spend the last two years going through security checks and personal interviews in order to gain access to the United States. Indianapolis was selected as their relocation city because the family has relatives already living here.


“The Archdiocese of Indianapolis was asked to help resettle this family through its regular participation in a program that is a public-private partnership between the federal government and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and its Migration and Refugee Services,” said Tobin in his released statement.

Archbishop Joseph Tobin, Archdiocese of Indianapois
  • Archbishop Joseph Tobin, Archdiocese of Indianapois
The placement of the family in Indiana goes against a request made by Gov. Mike Pence. In the days immediately following the terrorists attacks in Paris, Pence joined several other governors in “suspending” the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana. The Family and Social Services Administration soon after issued letters to Catholic Charities of Indianapolis and Exodus Refugee Immigration asking them to adhere to the governor’s wishes and halt the relocation of refugees specifically from Syria to Indiana — refugees from other countries would be ok.

Both Catholic Charities and Exodus Refugee Immigration work with global organizations and the U.S. Department of State in a public-private partnership to provide refugees a new home and a start on a new life. 

The request was made because the state doesn’t specifically have a direct hand in bringing the refugees here, finding them a place to live, or even providing transportation from the airport.

What the state does provide refugees is access to benefits like food stamps, healthcare, job training and other resources that any low or no-income family would need.

That’s why communication from the governor’s office has changed slightly to read the state is suspending “participation” in the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

However, the ACLU of Indiana and the national office of the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the state on behalf of Exodus Immigration Service because of that “lack of participation.” The lawsuit claims such action is a violation of the U.S. Constitution (equal protection and due process) and a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (discrimination based on national origin).

Pence is standing by his initial action in the name of Hoosier security and safety.

"The governor holds Catholic Charities in the highest regard but respectfully disagrees with their decision to place a Syrian refugee family in Indiana at this time,” said Matt Lloyd, spokesperson for Pence, in a released statement. “The safety and security of the people of Indiana is Governor Pence’s top priority. The State of Indiana will continue to suspend its participation in the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana until the federal government takes action to address the concerns raised about this program.”

Tobin said he met with Pence last week and told him the Syrian family was coming, providing details about the family’s plight, their relations already living in the state and the role of the Archdiocese in welcoming the family to Indiana.

“For 40 years the Archdiocese's Refugee and Immigrant Services has welcomed people fleeing violence in various regions of the world,” said Tobin. “This is an essential part of our identity as Catholic Christians and we will continue this life-saving tradition.”

The Archdiocese has received donations of all sorts in support of their Refugee and Immigrant Services program and donations are always accepted.

"Basically, anything that you would put in your own house, from furniture to toiletries, we will accept," says Heidi Smith, director of refugee services for Catholic Charities. A detailed list of donation items can be found here on their website.

Monetary donations can also be made online and can be directed specifically to refugee resettlement if so desired.


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Amber Stearns

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Amber Stearns was born, raised, and educated right here in Indianapolis. She holds a B.S. in Communications from the University of Indianapolis (1995). Following a 20-year career in radio news in Indiana, Amber joined NUVO as News Editor in 2014.

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