ACLU Sues Gov. Mike Pence Over Blocking Syrian Refugees

Nov 24, 2015

The ACLU holds a press conference earlier today.
Credit Steve Burns / WTIU

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Gov. Mike Pence to stop him from blocking federal funds that help Syrian refugees move to Indiana.

The ACLU is seeking a preliminary injunction on behalf of Exodus Refugee Immigration, a nonprofit corporation that assists refugees with federal money funneled through the state.

Exodus Executive Director Carleen Miller refuted claims that accepting refugees from Syria poses a security risk, citing the minimum 18-month vetting process each refugee goes through to move to the United States.

Miller says she wishes Pence and the more than two dozen other governors who want to halt the resettlement program understood more about who the Syrian refugees are.

“They are shop-owners, and business owners, and the kids are in school, and they’re bright and lovely, and I would for the governors to actually meet with Syrian families, and hear about their stories and why we need to welcome them,” Miller says.

Indiana ACLU legal director Ken Falk says the governor’s actions are unconstitutional and violate equal protection laws and The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Plus Falk says states do not have the right to circumvent decisions made by the federal government.

“We are not talking legal theory here," Falk says. "We’re talking about affecting wha...is most fundamental in American history – the ability, and the need, and the welcoming that we have given to refugees for not just decades but from the time when America was America."

One Syrian family planning to move to Indiana was recently turned away because of the governor’s actions and relocated to Connecticut.

Gov. Pence's office released a statement Tuesday afternoon, reiterating that the governor is confident in his authority to block funding for Syrian refugees.

"[Gov. Pence] will not reverse course until the Administration and Congress take action to pause this program and implement measures necessary to address security gaps acknowledged by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security," the statement reads.

It concluded with a message from the Governor that "caution and compassion are not mutually exclusive."