Federal court calls Mike Pence’s attempts to bar Syrian refugees ‘discrimination based on nationality’

This Monday, an appeals court blocked Indiana Governor and vice presidential candidate Mike Pence’s efforts to keep Syrian refugees out of Indiana.

The court’s decision reinforced a ruling from a lower court which prevented Pence from meddling with funds intended to resettle Syrian refugees in his state – a ruling that intended to prevent discrimination based on nationality.

According to NPR, the panel that issued the ruling consisted of an “all-star group of conservative judges – including one who’s Donald Trump’s top pick for the Supreme Court.

From NPR:

In a unanimous opinion, the appeals court said Gov. Pence acted illegally in accepting federal money for refugee resettlement and then refusing to use that money to aid Syrian refugees.

The panel rejected Pence’s argument that terrorists are posing as Syrian refugees to gain entry into the U.S., calling it a “nightmare speculation” based on no evidence. Indeed, the court said, the state presented no evidence that any Syrian refugee had been involved in a terrorist act in the U.S.

Under the 1980 Refugee Act, the U.S. is responsible for resettling refugees fleeing persecution. In 2016, President Obama set the limit for refugees entering the U.S. at 85,000.

Among the 85,000, Obama allotted 10,000 spaces to be reserved for Syrian refugees, but the state of Indiana refused to use the funds from the federal government to resettle them. Indiana was then sued by an ACLU-supported group accusing the state of discrimination.

“Gov. Pence may not constitutionally or legally discriminate against a particular nationality of refugees that are extensively vetted by the federal government,” legal director of the ACLU of Indiana Ken Falk said.

According to Pence, the state of Indiana is worried that Syrian refugees pose a threat.

Writing for the court, Judge Richard Posner called Pence’s argument “the equivalent of his saying (not that he does say) that he wants to forbid black people to settle in Indiana not because they’re black but because he’s afraid of them, and since race is therefore not his motive, he isn’t discriminating,” adding “that of course would be racial discrimination, just as [Pence’s] targeting Syrian refugees is discrimination on the basis of nationality.”

 Featured image: Gage Skidmore (Flickr)

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