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Judge blocks Gov. Pence's order banning Syrian refugee settlement

A federal judge in Indianapolis has blocked Republican Gov. Mike Pence's order barring state agencies from helping Syrian refugees resettle in Indiana.
Gov. Mike Pence

A federal judge in Indianapolis has blocked Republican Gov. Mike Pence's order barring state agencies from helping Syrian refugees resettle in Indiana.

Monday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt comes in response to a request for a preliminary injunction from the group Exodus Refugee Immigration, which helps resettle refugees.

Pratt wrote in her 36-page opinion that the governor's directive "clearly discriminates against Syrian refugees based on their national origin."

The state's Attorney General's office reviewed the decision, saying it means state officials must resume full grant payments to nonprofit contractors whose payments had been partially and temporarily suspended by Pence's November decision.

The AG's office plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago and ask for an immediate stay, according to a spokesperson.

Gov. Pence's office quickly released a statement, saying:

"As governor I have no higher priority than the safety and security of the people of Indiana. During these uncertain times, we must always err on the side of caution. For that reason, following the terrorist attack in Paris and the acknowledgment by the Director of the FBI that there are gaps in the screening for Syrian refugees, I suspended participation by the State of Indiana in the Syrian refugee resettlement program and I stand by that decision.

“So long as the Obama administration continues to refuse to address gaps in the screening of Syrian refugees acknowledged by the FBI and a bipartisan majority in Congress, Hoosiers can be assured that my 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."

The Indiana Democratic Party soon responded as well, calling it a victory over Pence's "run-to-the-mic" decision. In a written statement, communications director Drew Anderson said:

"Last fall, Mike Pence put his ideology first when he chose to bar funds from Syrian refugees who simply wanted a fresh start and a new place to call home. In turn, Pence not only embarrassed the state but also once again put Indiana's coveted 'Hoosier Hospitality' reputation in jeopardy. Today's ruling not only affirms Mike Pence is an ideologue, but also that he is not in touch with how Hoosiers feel about important issues affecting our state. Indiana needs a governor who will put commonsense and 'The Golden Rule' first - and not issues that only divide our state. This person is clearly not Mike Pence."

More than two dozen states, most with Republican governors, have taken similar action to suspend Syrian resettlement programs.

Pence had cited concerns following the deadly Paris terrorist attacks when issuing the order in November. He's noted a passport found near one of the suicide bombers had been registered along the route asylum seekers from Syria are taking through Europe.

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