Cole Varga, Executive Director of Exodus Refugee Immigration Inc.

This week the State of Indiana officially gave up on its cruel attempt to suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state of Indiana.

Blocked at every turn by the courts who agreed that then-Governor Mike Pence’s actions violated the U.S. Constitution and federal law, the State of Indiana will finally drop its appeal.

We are grateful for the ACLU attorneys who came to the defense of this humanitarian program when Governor Pence attacked Syrian refugees by attempting to deny federal grant money to organizations like ours who resettle them.

For our organization and the innocent refugees we assist, it is a bittersweet victory.

Sweet because the courts repeatedly affirmed that by discriminating against a group of refugees on the basis of their nationality, Indiana’s refugee ban not only violated our values as Hoosiers, it violated the U.S. Constitution as well. 

Bitter because we now know that this discriminatory policy was a just preview of what the Trump-Pence administration has tried to implement on a nationwide scale with the Muslim Ban and draconian restrictions on refugee arrivals.

Thanks to the ACLU’s tireless efforts, multiple courts have invalidated all three versions of President Trump’s travel ban, enacted to make good on his campaign promise to prohibit Muslims from entering the country.

But while the courts have forced Trump to revise and limit his initial action, other restrictions on the refugee program have gone into effect – with devastating consequences for people fleeing persecution and violence around the globe as well as for the infrastructure of the U.S. resettlement program itself.

In September, the administration established a record low goal for U.S. refugee admissions in 2018 – only 45,000 nationally. With the addition of an executive order Trump signed in October that effectively halted the entry of refugees from 11+ countries, the effect has been to dramatically slash the number of refugee arrivals to the U.S. – especially those from Muslim-majority countries.

Overall, the total number of refugees admitted to the U.S. fell by 70 percent during Trump’s first 11 months in office.

As an organization that has worked for 37 years to help refugees establish new lives in the Hoosier State, we have seen the human cost of the Trump administration’s cruelty first-hand.

On January 30th of last year, one of our Syrian refugee families was anticipating the arrival of their relatives here in Indianapolis through the refugee program. These relatives in Jordan were packing their belongings and saying their goodbyes. However, with the signing of Trump’s Muslim ban just a few days before their travel date, they were told they could no longer travel to the United States. Their flight was canceled. Twelve months later, it is still unclear if these refugees will ever be reunited with the rest of their family in Indianapolis.

Attempting to shroud discrimination under the cover of “national security” does not make us safer – it diminishes our nation and our principles. Becoming a refugee is the most difficult way to come to America. In addition to enduring unspeakable hardship in their home country, refugees must go through a long waiting period during which they are extensively vetted.

The Trump administration’s shameful retreat from our values undermines America’s standing in the world, violates our bedrock values of religious tolerance, and causes real human suffering.

Hundreds of your refugee neighbors – who should be sharing dinner with you, whose kids should be attending school with yours, who should be your co-workers – are missing from our community.

That is why, though our legal case may be closed, Exodus will continue to push back on the administration’s attempt to dismantle the national refugee program, while making sure we honor our commitments to the refugees who already call Indianapolis home.

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