In November of 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indianapolis, on behalf of Exodus Refugee Immigration, filed a case in federal court against Mike Pence. The case comes after Pence’s decision to bar Syrian refugee resettlement in Indianapolis indefinitely. The lawsuit is attempting to stop Pence from having the ability to withhold federal aid money from Exodus.
Exodus argues that Pence’s decision directly violates the United States Constitution, by discriminating against people based on nationality. Pence argues that it’s within his rights as governor to take whatever measures necessary to ensure safety of residents. However, the right to make decisions regarding refugee resettlement lies only with the federal government, not the state government and certainly not Mike Pence.
Exodus show that Pence’s decision violates the Federal Refugee Act because “withholding funds for Syrians and only Syrians” directly violates law. Pence argues that the Refugee Act applies only on a federal level but the clear text of the Act shows that to be untrue; State government is also responsible for upholding the text of the Refugee Act.
To unjustly punish Syrian refugees that are fleeing violence by barring them from resettling in Indiana is a direct violation of the Constitution and destroys civil liberties. Hoosiers are a welcoming people and the Midwest is a haven for hospitality. Pence’s decision is one based off of fear and not legitimacy. His decision does not represent the mindset of most Hoosiers.
The funding that Exodus Refugee Immigration receives allows the organization to provide resettling families with medical services, housing options, English language education, employment training, and so much more. Without this funding, organizations like Exodus cannot function properly and must cut services in very crucial areas. When refugees are unable to benefit from services such as these, it sets them up for a rocky transition.
The lawsuit includes many signed declarations on behalf of Exodus, from various federal employees stating that refugee services are limited to the most vulnerable people and refugees go through intense screening, refuting Pence’s argument that the current refugee acceptance methodology is weak and lacks security. The ACLU says that “the United States has a rigorous and multi-layered security screening program in place for refugee resettlement that includes background checks by multiple agencies. Refugees undergo biometric tests, medical screenings, and in-person interviews with Department of Homeland Security officials.”
“Interpretations and judgments belong in the first instance to the State of Indiana and the United States. Yet the United States is not before this Court and has not undertaken any enforcement action against the State for the Governor’s decision to suspend social services grant payments to resettlement agencies on account of refugees fleeing Syria,” the State argues in it’s case. So, the State is essentially arguing that it is not within Exodus’s rights to file a lawsuit. The State also argues that Exodus has no right to uphold the Refugee Act. However, Exodus has every right to raise their claims because they receive federal funding, along with other legal reasons.
Exodus will continue to resettle refugees. Last year they provided 892 refugees with a new, safe life full of opportunity, some of those refugees being Syrian. They plan to resettle the same amount of people in 2016, 19 of those being Syrian refugees approved for resettlement by the federal government.
The case will be heard February 12th, 2016.