ACLU Lawsuit against Indiana Governor Seeks Relief for Syrian Refugees


Mon., Nov. 23, 2015

"There is no border around the state of Indiana that prevents people from entering our state who may move freely within the United States."

—ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk. 

Indianapolis – The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and attorneys from the national office of the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of Exodus Refugee Immigration, filed suit today against Governor Mike Pence and the Secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration to stop attempts by the governor to suspend resettlement of Syrian refugees, claiming the governor's actions violate the United States Constitution and federal law.

"There is no border around the state of Indiana that prevents people from entering our state who may move freely within the United States," said ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk. "Decisions concerning immigration and refugee resettlement are exclusively the province of the federal government, and attempts to pre-empt that authority violate both equal protection and civil rights laws and intrude on authority that is exclusively federal."

The lawsuit, brought on behalf of Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc., seeks an injunction to stop the governor from taking any actions to suspend, block or withhold aid from refugees or from Exodus. Exodus is a nonprofit corporation that receives federal money through the state's Office of Refugee Programs, located within the Family and Social Services Administration, to assist in resettlement of federally approved and screened refugees. The funds are used to assist with employment training, English language education and other services.

Exodus has settled 892 refugees, including some from Syria, in the past fiscal year, and is projected to settle approximately that number in 2016, including 19 Syrians approved for refugee status by the federal government that have been placed with Exodus and who are expected to arrive in Indiana in the next few weeks or months.

"The actions taken by Governor Pence to block Syrian refugees from entering the State of Indiana are not in line with Hoosier or American values," said Carleen F. Miller, Exodus Refugee Immigration Inc. executive director. "Indiana is a welcoming state known for our hospitality. History will judge us in this moment – whether we take the moral stand for victims of war and persecution in their time of need or reject our core principles by giving in to fear and terror."

"We urge the governor to affirm the American value of protecting refugees who seek sanctuary from the brutality of terrorism," said Jane Henegar, ACLU of Indiana executive director. "These refugees are fleeing violence and oppression and should not be blamed for the very terror they are fleeing."

"This lawsuit is calling out Governor Pence on his unconstitutional bluff," said Judy Rabinovitz, deputy legal director of ACLU's immigrants' rights project. "He does not have the power to pick and choose between which lawfully admitted refugees he is willing to accept. Singling out Syrian refugees for exclusion from Indiana is not only ethically wrong, it is unconstitutional. Period."

The case, Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc. v. Mike Pence, et al., Case 1:15-cv- 1:15-cv-01858-TWP-DKL was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, on November 23, 2015.

Click here to download a PDF copy of the lawsuit.

Click here to download a PDF copy of the motion for preliminary injunction.

Contact: 317-635-4059 Ext. 122

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