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Judge blocks Indiana's Syrian refugee order

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A federal judge in Indianapolis on Monday blocked Republican Gov. Mike Pence's order that barred state agencies from helping Syrian refugees resettle in Indiana, saying the governor's directive "clearly discriminates" against refugees from the war-torn country.

The ruling grants a request for a preliminary injunction from Exodus Refugee Immigration, which helps resettle refugees in Indiana. The group sued shortly after Pence issued his order in November, saying the change would hurt aid groups by withholding reimbursements for housing and medical care to assist Syrian refugees.

Exodus and other organizations have continued to resettle Syrian refugees, though the state has sought to withhold funds earmarked for resettlements. Four Syrian refugees were settled in January, with Exodus planning to settle nearly 200 more this year, Monday's opinion said.

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

Pence released a statement saying he stood by his decision and would quickly appeal. The governor has repeatedly cited the November attacks in Paris as justification, noting that a passport found near one of the suicide bombers had been registered along the route asylum seekers from Syria were taking through Europe.

In her 36-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt said the state had a compelling concern to protect its residents, but that withholding federal grant money from the aid group "in no way furthers the state's asserted interest in the safety of Indiana residents."

Pratt also wrote that the governor's directive "clearly discriminates against Syrian refugees based on their national origin."

Similar lawsuits have been filed in Texas, Alabama and Pennsylvania, according to the judge's ruling. An attorney for the Indiana plaintiffs, Kenneth Falk, said he believes Pratt's ruling is the first action taken by a judge in such a case.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the refugee group by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said the state was violating the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act by accepting refugees from other countries but not from Syria. At the time, the group said it expected to settle about 19 Syrians vetted by the federal government within the next several months.

Pratt said she granted the preliminary injunction because she believed the plaintiffs would eventually prevail in their lawsuit.

The judge said the state had acknowledged it doesn't have the authority to bar Syrian refugees from crossing into Indiana after the U.S. government already gave them a green light to enter the country. But she said the aim of yanking funding from groups like Exodus was to achieve the same result.

"The State deprives Syrian refugees that are already in Indiana of social services in the hopes that it will deter (voluntary agencies) from resettling other Syrian refugees in the State," she wrote. "This is essentially a policy of punishing Syrian refugees already in Indiana in the hopes that no more will come."

Pratt added that the state's decision to not pass on funds to Exodus would mean the group might be forced to cut funding to other refugee clients — not just those from Syria.

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  1. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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