October 7, 2016

Court strikes down decision to refuse state help for Syrian refugees

By Natalie Hoefer

On Oct. 3, a three-judge panel of the United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals blocked Gov. Mike Pence’s policy to prevent state agencies from providing assistance to Syrian refugees resettled in Indiana.

Pence made the declaration in early November of last year, just prior to the resettling of a Syrian family to Indianapolis by the archdiocesan Catholic Charities Indianapolis’ Refugee and Immigrant Services. Despite Pence’s announcement, the archdiocese moved forward with the resettlement of the family, which consisted of a young married couple with two small children.

Pence’s decision was challenged in late November by Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc., a private organization that assists refugees in Indiana. On behalf of that organization, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued Pence and the secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration in late November.

On Feb. 29, a federal district judge ruled against Pence’s decision. That decision was appealed, leading to this most recent ruling by the circuit court to uphold the federal court’s decision.

In an ACLU press release, Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the organization’s Immigrant’s Rights Project, stated, “No state can unilaterally ban a group of refugees that has been vetted and admitted by the federal government. By trying to block Syrian families based solely on their nationality, Indiana is flouting federal law, the U.S. Constitution, and our fundamental American values of providing refuge for families fleeing war and violence.”

The archdiocese is pleased with the appellate court ruling.

“We are glad for this ruling from the federal court, as it assures we can continue our lifesaving work of welcoming refugees from across the world—including Syria,” said Heidi Smith, director of Refugee Services for Catholic Charities Indianapolis Refugee and Immigrant Services.

“Catholic Charities Indianapolis, in partnership with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the U.S. Department of State, has resettled refugees escaping war and persecution for over 40 years. In welcoming the stranger, we celebrate the goodness that these courageous individuals bring to our own lives and our community.” †

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