Here's what happened in the hearing of Exodus Refugee v. Mike Pence 

click to enlarge Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse - PHOTO BY ANNIKA LARSON
  • Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse
  • Photo by Annika Larson


On February 12th, the United States District Court of Indiana heard the case of the ACLU, on behalf of Exodus Refugee, v. Mike Pence on the issue of Syrian refugee immigration. Judge Tanya Pratt listened to the prosecution and the defense argue their cases amongst a gallery full of attentive observers; media and community alike.

Ken Falk, attorney for the ACLU of Indiana for Exodus Refugee Inc., argued his case first.


One claim from his argument is that the barring of federal monies for refugee programs risks future harm. This means that Exodus Refugee will be unable to provide sufficient programming for refugees adjusting to life in the US if they are not allowed grant money. The barring of federal grant money causes Exodus to search for money in places where there is none, or requires them to re-budget their entire organization. This leads to a decrease in funding in important services such as language training, educational resources, and employment services. The suspension of funds in unlawful and violates Title 6 and equal protection.

A second claim in his argument is that the federal government has the exclusive role in regulating immigration and foreign policy. Thus, the state does not. Indiana cannot inject its own laws into federal policy and the state cannot act when those actions conflict with Constitutional authority. Moreover, the state’s decision to bar Syrian refugees conflicts with the President’s direct plan to resettle more Syrian refugees in America.

A third, and equally important, claim in the argument is that Exodus Refugee does have the right to raise its claims on behalf of its clients. Exodus argues that as the business organization representing Syrian refugees, they do, in fact, have the right to raise claims on behalf of their clients. The situation is not practical for a resettling refugee family to file a lawsuit against the state themselves, which is where the ACLU and Exodus comes in. Because the decisions of the state may cause “future harm” to Syrian refugees, their representing organizations have the right to raise their claims.

Next up was Solicitor General Thomas Fisher, testifying for the state on behalf of Mike Pence.

One of the state’s first arguments was that the state’s decision is only temporary. The decision was made because the US lacks information on refugees fleeing Syria. The state does not know how long this ban on Syrian refugees will last, but it is not permanent. It depends on the “ebb and flow” in Syria.

His next argument states that Exodus Refugee cannot consider themselves a 3rd party. The state argues that just because an organization wants to step in and be someone’s “champion,” does not make them a 3rd party. Thus, Exodus has no right to raise their claims.

One of the last arguments that the state presented is that Exodus is not really being harmed by the barring of federal monies. The state argues that, if Exodus is still providing services to their clients, but isn’t being reimbursed or refunded for those service (which is the point of federal grant money), they aren’t at the risk of serious injury. The stopping of monies does not stop Exodus from providing services, it just causes them to look for funding outside of the government.

Judge Pratt raised many questions after the arguments were heard, all of them directed at the state. We accept refuges from other terrorist-ridden countries. Why Syrians? Doesn’t that discriminate against nationality? What about other countries that are troublesome? What about Falk’s affidavits that prove the US does not lack information on Syrian refugees accepted to the US? The state’s argument is resting on advice from only 2 government officials? How does withholding money for refugee services provide to the safety of Hoosier? How are we protecting Indiana safety by not providing refugees with, say, job training?

The state attempted to answer these questions, but only briefly since they did not have time to prepare an argument for them. The state has until February 22nd to file a sur-reply brief, an additional reply to the prosecution’s argument after the motion has been heard in full.

Judge Pratt hopes to have a decision by the end of February. 

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