A U.S. federal judge said Monday the north central state of Indiana cannot attempt to deter the resettlement of Syrian refugees, calling an order by Governor Mike Pence clearly discriminatory.
After the November terror attacks in Paris, Pence ordered state agencies to suspend funding for groups that help refugees in Indiana. He said the measures would be in place until he got assurances proper security measures were in place.
More than two dozen other states took similar stances while expressing fears about terrorism.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt said withholding funding for social services «in no way furthers the state’s asserted interest in the safety of Indiana residents.»
Her decision does not end the lawsuit brought by a group called Exodus Refugee Immigration, which expects to resettle nearly 200 Syrians in Indiana this year. But she said Exodus is likely to win, and thus blocked the state from continuing to suspend the funding.
Similar lawsuits are also pending in Pennsylvania, Texas and Alabama.
President Barack Obama has said the country will take in 85,000 refugees this year, with Syrians accounting for 10,000 of them. The refusal by some states – most with Republican governors – to accept Syrians drew attention to the process by which refugees are admitted to the U.S. But Obama and other officials defended the government’s vetting efforts, saying the extensive process can take up to two years.
The federal government pays groups like Exodus directly for expenses to prepare for the refugees’ arrival, including costs such as obtaining and furnishing a place for them to live.
Once the refugees are in Indiana, federal funds go through state agencies to pay for social services, including job training, cultural integration, adult English classes, medical assistance and school aid.
The governor’s order blocks the first part of that list, but refugees can still get medical and school aid if they otherwise qualify.